Sometimes common sense is not so common. By a Memorandum dated January 31, 2017, the General Counsel of the NLRB has taken the position that student athletes at private colleges and universities are employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, notwithstanding the Board’s issuance of its decision of Northwestern University in 2015 in which it declined to exercise jurisdiction after a representation petition was filed by a union seeking to represent the Northwestern University’s football players.
So does that mean that if a football player has a serious health condition that the football coach will now have to provide FMLA to that player? Or, if the injury is more extreme, must the football coach then reasonably accommodate that player? Or, pay overtime after 40 hours of practice? Needless to say, you get my drift. This has got to be one of the most ridiculous legal positions coming out of the NLRB in a long time. Once again, the NLRB is extremely myopic and simplistic in terms of their view of the world, not taking into account the myriad of other issues that develop when such an ill-founded decision is made. In particular, I am sure the NCAA is going to be thrilled with this approach by the Board. Time and time again, after thorough review, the courts and other federal agencies have refused to adopt the viewpoint that such individuals are employees. Indeed, as the 7th Circuit recently recognized in the case of Berger v. NCAA, 16-1558 (January 12, 2017), this issue has been settled for years and there is no reason to revisit it. And while I am hopeful that in a matter of months, when we have a new GC in place at the Board, this memo will be made null and void, but in the interim we continue to have to put up with such nonsense being endorsed as our national labor policy. Frankly, it is just embarrassing.