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U.S. Court of Appeals Says PIAA Officials are Independent Contractors Not Employees of PIAA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a unanimous 3-0 decision last week agreed with PIAA that PIAA-registered sports officials are properly
classified as independent contractors, not employees.

(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

The D.C. Court of Appeals’ decision vacates a prior decision issued by the National Labor Relations Board in July
2017, which had found that a group of PIAA-registered lacrosse officials in Western Pennsylvania were employees for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act.

In reaching its decision that PIAA officials are independent contractors, the Court of Appeals relied heavily upon the fact that PIAA-member schools, not the PIAA, pay the officials during the regular season; that each season is a relatively short duration; and that PIAA does not exercise significant control over the calls made by officials during a game or contest.

“Telling an official to call a game fairly is hardly akin to instructing a worker how to work,” the Court of Appeals noted.

A media release from the PIAA said the organization has “always strongly believed that the officials are properly classified as independent contractors.”

In its decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals noted: “ʽAlmost every state court decision involving an amateur sports official’s employment status’ has come to the same conclusion.”

According to the PIAA, the prior NLRB decision created significant uncertainty in this area.

“PIAA and state athletic associations across the country now have clarity, PIAA-registered sports officials are independent contractors,” the PIAA said in its release.