The years-long debate on the employment status of students and athletes took a big step forward last month with a new memorandum from the National Labor Relations Board indicating that they should be seen as employees, which has implications for higher education insurance and workers' compensation. .
Employment lawyers say the memorandum is likely to result in increased disputes and organization of athletes' activities, along with broader protection for employee behavior.
On September 29, NLRB Advocate General Jennifer Abruzzo issued a notice stating that her prosecution, college athletes, are statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act, with rights and protections under federal labor laws.
“What is likely to happen is that universities that do not recognize employment status can be prosecuted for unfair working practices. , Says Jon Israel, partner at Foley & Lardner LLP in New York, and head of the company's sports and entertainment group. [1
"Local discharge, discrimination, hostile environmental damage may become employment-related claims and universities may find it necessary to approach their insurance strategy from that perspective," he said.
"It's all with a huge caveat, that it depends if others follow when they see athletes as employees.
There is no state or federal mandate to ensure the employment status of student-athletes. The NLRB memorandum only sets an expectation for the universities, that in case a case is brought against them, in the NLRB's eyes, athletes are employed and should be protected. What the employment status will mean for the universities' insurance needs and risk profiles raises more questions than answers.
"Every state will have to fight with it," Israel said. "It depends on who calls them an employee and when, and there may be a federal law that does it first, and if it does, what does that mean for employee insurance? Will it require some coverage or is it just an option? And the cost remains to be seen, but would increase significantly given the risk of injury from the "work" they do. Israel adds.
“Will it be linked to scholarships? Salary? It will be a whole new world, and it can vary from state to state, "he said.
Historically, under NCAA policies, schools had room to harm their best athletes. also questions about whether restrictions on insurance programs that affect student athletes may be subject to competitive challenges.
"There are so many levels of this," Israel said, "about compensation, whether through scholarships or salaries, that will affect taxes. and benefits-disability insurance, government employee benefits and how these coverages may be involved remains to be seen, but the cost would probably be quite significant.