As part of a continuing legal crackdown on unpaid positions not subject to employment law as well as a trend of class-action suits, a class-action lawsuit to the tune of $180 million has been filed against the Canadian Hockey League on the behalf of both current and former players.
The lawsuit itself lays down the claim that current players earn between $50 and $120 weekly for hours of games, practices, traveling and training, stating that since the players are employees and subject to minimum wage, this is unacceptable as the stipends do not meet these requirements.
In an article written on the management legal firm Stringer LLP’s blog, the company asserts that the lawsuit raises a number of intriguing employment-law points.
First, Stringer claims, “the initial hurdle is whether or not these players are employees for the purposes of employment legislation....Given that teams, even below the Major Junior level, charge fans for admission, there is an inherent logic to the argument that at some point before a youth earns a place in the NHL his status could shift from 'participant' to 'employee'. But there is no clear demarcation in legislation or caselaw.”
Stringer says matters are then made more complex since CHL teams are located across all Canadian provinces except Newfoundland, with each province subject to its own legal standards on employment. Additionally, other questions are brought up including:
1) Should the players be ruled employees, would they then be entitled to worker’s compensation?
2) If a player were cut by his junior team, would he be entitled to employment insurance?
3) Could junior players unionize?
“Suffice it to say,” the blog post concludes, “that the outcome of this suit could have an impact on these other regimes in unanticipated, yet significant ways.”