BY LISA CORNWELL
The Associated Press
The Cincinnati Reds shouldn't have to pay overtime to five maintenance workers because the baseball team is exempt under a labor law, its lawyers argued to a federal court Tuesday.
The workers, housekeepers in the private boxes at then Riverfront Stadium, sued the team in 1993. They said the failure to get overtime violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay employees for work in excess of 40 hours a week.
The Reds originally argued that they shouldn't have to pay the overtime because the federal requirement does not apply to amusement or recreational establishments that operate for seven months or less a year. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati ruled that the team operates more than seven months out of the year because it employs people during the off-season. The U.S Supreme Court agreed.
On Tuesday, the Reds argued that recreational or amusement employers are exempt if receipts for any six months of the year are not more than two-thirds of the average receipts for the other six months of the year.
The Reds take in most of their receipts in January and February from season ticket sales, so they could not qualify for that exemption if those sales were counted as immediate income. But lawyers argued that the team's accounting method does not count the season ticket sales as income until the games are played.
"This type of accounting is mandated by Major League Baseball and by generally accepted accounting principles," Reds attorney Randolph Freking told a three-judge panel of the appeals court.
Peter Fox, attorney for the workers, told the court money should be counted at the time it is obtained.
"I can find no language in the law that talks about methods of accounting," Mr. Fox said.
U.S. District Judge Walter Rice ruled against the Reds in March 1997, saying the money should be counted when it comes in.
Ann Lugbill, an officer with the Ohio Employment Lawyers Association and an attorney who primarily represents employees, said the Reds workers are entitled to overtime pay:
"We've got the Supreme Court and other federal courts sending them the message that they should pay their employees a fair wage."
But Jeffrey Shoskin, an attorney who usually represents employers, said the Reds have a credible argument.
The three-judge panel did not indicate when it would rule.