No Foul in Overtime Denial for Open Umps

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Days after the U.S. Open dished out medals, a New York judge picked umps as the losers in their labor bout against the U.S. Tennis Association.
     Women’s singles champion Serena Williams, who picked up her third consecutive title Sunday, did not appear in this court. Neither did this year’s Grand Slam champion Marin Cilic, whose victory redeemed him from the recent scandal of his four-month doping suspension in 2013.
     The U.S. Tennis Association’s opponents in the Southern District of New York were the umpires, a group of professionals who mostly earn their livings with others jobs like attorneys, executives and business managers.
     Lead plaintiff Steven Meyer has a private practice in Florida, and his colleague Aimee Johnson said in court papers that she “worked part time as a district attorney in Louisiana.”
     Larry Mulligan-Gibbs serves as a director of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
     Representing a class of chair and line umpires, they sued the USTA three years ago for allegedly stiffing them on overtime since 2005.
     U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter described their daily routines come tournament-time, in a 15-page opinion Thursday.
     Clocking in as early as 10 a.m., the umpires usually spend between 10 and 11 hours at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, including travel time, early arrival, downtime and meal breaks.
     “Each day, play begins at 11:00 am and ends anytime between early evening and well past midnight, depending on the weather and the length of the matches being played,” the opinion states.
     The umpires earn a fixed daily rate of $115 to $200 per day for this work, depending on their certification level, and they collect $40 for the days they are not working at the tournament.
     “The USTA also pays some travel, meal, and equipment costs for umpires – a stipend for airfare, hotel expenses at a designated hotel for a shared room, a nominal meal credit at the National Tennis Center, and cost of uniforms,” the opinion states.
     The umpires pay for their own sunblock, watches, tape measures and other supplies.
     The USTA lists them as independent contractors, and the umpires typically identify themselves that way on their tax returns
     In their class action, however, the umpires contended that they should be treated as employees.
     Disagreeing, Judge Carter wrote that they are “highly skilled professionals who exert a high degree of control over their work.”
     “They have immense discretion, within the parameters of the rules of tennis, to conduct their duties – whether it be to suspend play or to report or penalize a player for a rules infraction,” his opinion states. “They invest in themselves as professional umpires by pursuing additional certifications and officiating other tournaments. They control their own schedules, and even decide annually whether to apply to officiate for the U.S. Open. Their association with USTA may recur annually, but the duration of their relationship is short-lived.”
     Lawyers for both parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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