Walter v. Western Hockey League et al.
Employment Law Class Action
What this class action is about
A class action has been filed in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench against the Canadian Hockey League, the Western Hockey League (WHL) and all of the teams in the WHL on behalf of former and current major junior hockey players in that league.
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 Ontario in respect to the players and teams in the Ontario Hockey League, and in Quebec in respect to the players and teams of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The representative plaintiffs, Lukas Walter, Travis McEvoy and Kyle O’Connor are former WHL members. More information about the proposed class action, including copies of many of the documents filed with the Court, is available at chlclassaction.com.
October 22, 2020- Courts refuse to approved Settlement Agreement
The Ontario, Alberta and Quebec courts have issued decisions declining to approve the Settlement Agreement agreed to by the parties following a mediation in the three class actions involving the OHL, WHL and QMJHL. Each judge, in separate reasons, held that the settlement was not in the best interests of the class members – solely because they each found that the scope of the Release in the Settlement Agreement was overbroad and could extend to claims other than claims that had been raised in the actions.
Each judge gave a strong indication that they would have approved the Settlement Agreement but for the wording of the Release. They advised the parties that if agreement could be reached on a revised Release which was more narrowly worded so as to clearly apply only to claims like the claims raised in the actions, the motion for approval of the Settlement Agreement with the revised Release could be made in writing, with no necessity for another hearing or notice being given as had been given for the earlier settlement approval hearing.
As a result of the courts’ decisions, and unless the parties can reach an agreement on a properly worded Release, the Settlement Agreement can be terminated within 30 days of the courts’ decisions by either the plaintiffs or defendants. If the Settlement Agreement is terminated, the three class actions will resume at the stage they were at before the mediation, moving eventually to a trial or motion for summary judgment.
July 31, 2020 – Settlement Approval hearing scheduled
The parties have settled the class actions seeking compensation for major junior hockey players in the WHL, the OHL and the QMJHL. The the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, 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 WHL class action, the class has been defined as follows:
You are a Class Member if:
- you were a player for a team located in British Columbia at some point between October 30, 2012 and February 15, 2016, or you were a player under the age of 19 on October 30, 2012; or
- you were a player for a team located in Alberta at some point between October 30, 2012 and January 1, 2020, or you were a player under the age of 18 on October 30, 2012; or
- you were a player for a team located in Manitoba at some point between October 30, 2012 and December 15, 2017, or you were a player under the age of 18 on October 30, 2012; or
- you were a player for a team located in Saskatchewan at some point between October 30, 2012 and April 29, 2014, or you were a player under the age of 18 on October 30, 2012.
If you fall within this definition, you will be included in the class action unless you choose to opt out. The WHL Opt Out Form 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 will be available soon.
May 15, 2018 – Alberta Court of Appeal dismisses the appeals
The Alberta Court of Appeal has dismissed both the plaintiffs’ appeal challenging the lower court’s refusal to certify the American teams, and the defendants’ appeals against certification.
This means that, unless one of the parties seeks permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the class action will proceed against all of the Canadian teams in the Western Hockey League, but will not proceed against the American teams in the league.
You can read the Court’s decision here.
September 11, 2017 – Date for appeals has been set
May 10, 2018 has been set as the date the Alberta Court of Appeal will hear both the defendants’ appeal against certification and the plaintiffs’ appeal of the decision not to certify the American teams.
July 17, 2017 – Plaintiffs and Defendants file appeals
The defendants have appealed the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench, arguing that the class action should not have been certified.
The plaintiffs have appealed the refusal of the Court of Queen’s Bench to certify the American teams.
The appeals will be heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal.
June 15, 2017 – The class action has been certified
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta has certified the class action in respect to the players and teams in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. However it refused to certify the American teams in the league.
February 10, 2017 – Hearing to continue
The application for certification was scheduled to be heard in Calgary from February 7 to 10, 2017. However, the parties did not finish their arguments and will return to court on April 18 to finish the application.