Class action suits raise employment questions about CHL players

Athletes are often considered to be among the highest earning people in society, with powerful unions and managers helping them broker multi-million dollar contracts. However, compensation and employment law can be a major issue in semi-professional leagues. Recent class action suits against the WHL and OHL in Alberta and Ontario have brought this issue to the attention of Canadian hockey fans, and the lawsuit of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has furthered the discussion on this issue.

Players in the Alberta and Ontario leagues and now in the CHL have taken legal action. They believe they are employees of their respective teams and, therefore, should receive compensation that meets minimum wage requirements. A contract with a subheading referring to player “employment” has now been submitted as evidence in the CHL case. If courts find that there is an employer-employee relationship between semi-professional players and teams, minimum wage standards apply to their situations.

Currently, the CHL claims its players are amateur student athletes rather than employees, despite the language used in the contract. The CHL’s assessment has been agreed to by seven provinces and U.S. states. In Alberta, a class action suit against the WHL has been certified.

In some professions, employment law can seem very clear-cut. Others, such as athletes, entertainers, and outdoor guides, may find some legal challenges with interpreting and enforcing such legislation. Employers and workers with questions about the legal status of their employment arrangement may benefit from the insights of an Alberta lawyer.

Source:, “Player contract key to CHL minimum-wage case, lawyer says“, Rick Westhead, Aug. 31, 2017

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