College Student Athletes As Employees?
The National Labor Relations Board indicated that student athletes at private universities should be considered employees under federal labor law, expanding the ability for athletes to advocate for improved conditions and perhaps clearing the way for them being unionized. NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said college athletes meet the definition of employees under the NLRB in a memo to regional offices.
This categorization may open the way for college athletes to receive workers’ compensation for injuries received during their athletic pursuits. Many times in the past, we have had to indicate that student athletes who called inquiring about eligibility for workers’ compensation have not been considered employees by federal and state authorities. The NCAA Board voted recently that athletes in revenue-generating sports can be paid. The NLRB memo notes that college athletes are employees. In Wisconsin an employer is one who pays at least one employee $500 per quarter. Using that rationale, colleges would be employers required to obtain a workers’ compensation policy for their athletes.