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Berg v. Canadian Hockey League et al.

September 11, 2020

Employment Law Class Action

What this class action is about

A class action has been filed against the Canadian Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and all of the teams in the OHL on behalf of former and current major junior hockey players.

Major junior hockey is big business, generating revenues for the teams, while the devoted young hockey players who work their hearts out do not get paid.  The class action aims to change that.

The plaintiffs’ position is that the Standard Player Agreement is actually an employment contract where the players agreed to provide services to the club. If this class action is certified, the Court will decide whether hockey players are employees. If the Court concludes they are employees, eligible players would be entitled to receive minimum wage and overtime pay, just like other young people who work for businesses.

The class action was filed by Charney Lawyers PC. Goldblatt Partners subsequently joined as co-counsel. A related class action was filed in Alberta in respect to the players and teams in the Western Hockey League, and in Quebec in respect to the players and teams of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The representative plaintiffs, Samuel Berg and Daniel Pachis, are former OHL members.

More information about the proposed class action, including copies of many of the documents filed with the Court, is available at chlclassaction.com.

Updates

September 11, 2020 – Instructions for observing the Settlement Approval Hearing on September 15 via Zoom or in person

The court hearing to consider the proposed settlement, distribution protocol and fee request of Class Counsel will be accessible online through the link below or through telephone.

The hearing will commence at 10:00 am (Alberta) / 12:00 noon (Toronto and Québec). Anyone wishing to attend should log on or call in 15 minutes prior to the commencement of the hearing. Non-counsel participants are not entitled to address the court and will be muted by the registrar. The courts may, at their discretion, ask whether any member of the class wishes to address the court at which point the registrar will unmute any individual granted leave to address the court. By attending the hearing class members are not required to address the court and are entitled to merely observe the proceedings if they wish.

Physical courts listed below will be available on the day of the hearing, but capacity will be limited as a result of COVID-19.

Ontario:  Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N5

Quebec (maximum capacity of 8): Court room 15.03, Palais de justice, 1 Notre-Dame St. East, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1B6

Alberta: Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, 2401N, 601 – 5th Street, S.W. Calgary, AB T2P 5P7

July 31, 2020 – Settlement Approval hearing scheduled

The parties have settled the class actions seeking compensation for major junior hockey players in the OHL, the WHL and the QMJHL. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and the Quebec Superior Court will conduct a settlement approval hearing on September 15, 2020. The hearing will be held remotely. The details of how to participate through remote video will be posted to www.chlclassaction.com when they are available.

If you are a class member in any of the class actions, please read the Notice of Settlement. It contains important information about the hearing, your options, and what comes next. A French language version of the Notice of Settlement is here.

Also Note: Certain class members have been added to the three class actions. In the OHL class action, the class has been defined as:

You are a Class Member if you were a player for an OHL team located in Ontario at some point between October 17, 2012 and November 15, 2018, or you were a player under the age of 18 on October 17, 2012.

If you fall within this definition, you will be included in the class action unless you choose to opt out. The OHL opt out form is here.

More information and instructions for all class members, including how to opt out, can be found in the Notice of CertificationA list of the Defendants is here.

Information about the WHL class action is here.

For more information, including information about the QMJHL class action, go to chlclassaction.com.

May 15, 2020 – Settlement!

The parties have reached a settlement. More information available soon.

April 3, 2019 – Divisional Court overturns parts of the Superior Court’s decision!

The Divisional Court has allowed the plaintiffs’ appeal in respect to some of the decisions made by the motions judge when he certified the class action.

Most importantly, the Divisional Court held that the motions judge was wrong when he dismissed a number of the plaintiffs’ claims / common issues. The motion judge certified only plaintiffs’ claims for breach of statute and unjust enrichment. He dismissed claims based on: breach of contract; negligence; conspiracy; breach of duty of honesty, good faith and fair dealing; and waiver of tort. The Divisional Court has ordered that those other claims / common issues be certified.

You can read the decision here.

November 16, 2018 – Ontario excludes OHL players from ESA

The Ontario government has excluded major junior hockey players from the application of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The government achieved this by adding a new regulation under the Act.

The appeal of the Ontario Superior Court’s decision is still scheduled for January 29, 2019.

November 8, 2018 – Open letter to the Premier of Ontario

In early November, the Commissioner of the Board of Governors of the Ontario Hockey League sent an open letter to the Premier of Ontario and a cabinet minister, effectively asking the government to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to preemptively exclude junior hockey players from employment standards protections.

Class counsel have responded with an Open letter to Premier Ford and Ministers Tibollo and Scott on behalf of the representative plaintiff and class members.

See news coverage from the Toronto Star here, from the Canadian Press here, from the London Free Press here and from Rank and File here.

June 13, 2017 –  Defendants file appeal

The defendants have appealed the Superior Court’s decision certifying the class action against the Ontario teams.

May 29, 2017 – Plaintiffs file appeal

The plaintiffs have appealed the Superior Court’s refusal to certify the class action against the American teams. The appeal will be heard by the Divisional Court.

April 27, 2017 – Class action certified

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has certified the class action in respect to the teams that are located in Ontario. The issues that have been certified are the plaintiffs’ claims for breach of employment law statutes and unjust enrichment.

The class action was not certified in respect to the American teams in the OHL. The Court held that players who are pursuing claims to enforce Michigan and Pennsylvania statutes can do so in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Read the decision here.

Lawyers

Steven Barrett, Joshua Mandryk

Practice Areas

Civil Litigation, Class Action Litigation, Employment Law