The Madison County Record Jun. 30, 2015, 5:26pm


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Operators of concession stands at baseball games in St. Louis and Kansas City owe back wages to workers they recruited as volunteers, according to a class action complaint in federal court.

Matthew Leonard, possibly of St. Louis, proposes to represent thousands who thought they volunteered at Busch and Kauffman stadiums since 2012.

Leonard toiled at Busch Stadium on May 30, 2013, according to a complaint he filed against Delaware North Companies Sport Service on May 29.

“Plaintiff, like all other members of the class, has sustained legal injuries arising from defendant’s conduct,” attorney Rayan Paulus of Kansas City wrote for Leonard.

“These ‘volunteers’ were recruited under the auspices they were raising money for various nonprofit organizations of their choice.

“Defendant is in fact exploiting a volunteer labor force to avoid paying money for necessary labor, a privilege not afforded for-profit companies under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

He wrote that a class action would be appropriate because, “common questions of fact and law predominate over any individual questions that may arise.”

“[I]f the size and individual class members’ claims are small, their aggregate volume, coupled with the economies of scale in litigating similar claims on a common basis, will enable this case to be litigated as a class action on a cost effective basis,” he wrote.

Paulus proposed to certify two classes, one seeking the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and one seeking the Missouri minimum of $7.65.

He wrote that Leonard retained attorneys who are highly skilled and experienced in complex and class action litigation.

Jeremy Hollingshead and John Eccher, Paulus’ colleagues at Hollingshead, Paulus and Eccher in Clayton, placed their names on the complaint.

They filed it at Cole County circuit court, in Jefferson City, but Delaware North counsel Douglas King of Clayton asserted federal jurisdiction on June 26.

King removed the suit to Western Missouri district court in Jefferson City, and he asked that court to transfer it to Eastern Missouri district court in St. Louis.

He argued that the complaint didn’t involve Kansas City at all.

King wrote that all events giving rise to the action occurred in St. Louis and that all or nearly all witnesses reside there.

He wrote that Delaware North does not operate concessions at either stadium, and that an indirect subsidiary operates at Busch but not Kauffman.

“Plaintiff does not even claim to have volunteered or otherwise worked at Kauffman Stadium,” King wrote.

“Upon information and belief, plaintiff is a resident of St. Louis.”

Leonard’s complaint identifies him as a Missouri resident.

He signed a document on May 30, authorizing the filing and prosecution of claims contesting the failure to pay him wages.

He specifically authorized negotiation for settlement of any and all claims.

The document bears Leonard’s signature but black lines cover his home address, his telephone number and his email address.

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