Players press legal power play against CHL in Calgary court room
The Calgary Herald reports on some of Steven Barrett’s arguments in a proposed class action involving the employment status of players in the Western Hockey League.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench will determine whether to certify a class action lawsuit brought by former WHL players, who maintain they were employees and should have been paid minimum wage and other benefits provided by employment standards legislation.
One of the issues in the case is the interpretation of the standard player agreement. Over the years, the language of that agreement has been modified by the WHL and its parent league, the Canadian Hockey League. The plaintiffs allege that the changes were made following other court decisions in an attempt to obscure the fact that it was an employment contract, even though players were never compensated in compliance with employment standards legislation.
In arguing for the right to proceed with a $180-million class-action suit, the clubs and the Canadian Hockey League “conspired with each other to ensure the players weren’t properly classified” as employees or paid as employees, said lawyer Steven Barrett.
Previous litigation suggests the CHL’s players should be considered employees and not student amateurs as claimed by the league, Barrett said Wednesday.
“When the courts look at those contracts, they have no trouble saying they give rise to employment,” he told court.
“There’s an effective monopoly over this labour … that’s the league’s control and the clubs’ control over the players.”
Arguments are expected to continue for the rest of this week.
Update: The National Post has also reported on yesterday’s arguments. You can read that story here.