U.S. Open umpires sue, faulting tennis league's pay structure
By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Four U.S. Open umpires filed suit on Thursday against the United States Tennis Association, claiming the sporting body underpaid them for years by misclassifying them as independent contractors.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of hundreds of other umpires who have worked for the USTA, the national governing body for the sport and the organizer of the annual U.S. Open.
It said that hundreds of umpires who officiated at the U.S. Open's main draw and qualifying matches over the last six years were not paid the wages they were due, including overtime, in violation of both federal and New York state law.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges the USTA paid the umpires between $115 to $200 a day working schedules and performing duties that were dictated by the USTA.
It seeks unpaid wages and overtime, as monetary damages and attorney's fees.
Chris Widmaier, a spokesman for USTA, responded to the lawsuit with a preview of the sporting group's likely defense, namely that the umpires only worked for the U.S. Open for a brief period in any given year and were treated fairly and in accordance with all applicable laws.
"We're disappointed that the umpires have chosen to exploit the U.S. Open and take advantage of the goodwill generated by the tournament by using it as a platform to advance a claim against the USTA," Widmaier said.
The U.S, Open, which is currently underway in New York, is an annual competition that takes places in late August and early September each year at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
(Additional reporting by Bob Burgdorfer; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
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