Ex-employees file class-action suits vs. AAF

Two class-action lawsuits have been filed this week by former employees of the Alliance of American Football -- one by players and another by the former Birmingham Iron director of community relations -- after the league's abrupt suspension of operations on April 2.

Both were filed in California. The players' suit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, and James Earnest Roberson Jr.'s suit was filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California. Both are suing the AAF, although the individuals sued in each one are different.

Roberson is suing the AAF and its LLC, Legendary Field Exhibitions, along with a handful of investors, including former NFL player Jared Allen, who also worked for the Alliance. League co-founder Bill Polian, MGM Resorts International, Troy Polamalu and J.K. McKay also are listed as co-defendants.

The players' lawsuit, filed by Colton Schmidt and Reggie Northrup, is suing the league under the name AAF Players, along with Legendary Field Exhibitions, league owner Tom Dundon, league co-founder Charlie Ebersol and the Ebersol Sports Media Group.

"This is a wholesale destruction of an entire football league," said Boris Treyzon, one of the attorneys suing on behalf of the players. "Once we started looking at the facts, we saw that this is basically a wholesale betrayal of a group of people."

Treyzon said Schmidt and Northrup are the only players named for now, but others have expressed interest in joining. Treyzon said he has yet to communicate with the league, and he declined to offer other specifics.

The Schmidt-Northrup suit is alleging breach of contract by the AAF, breach of implied good faith and fair dealings, failure to pay wages and fraud and false promises.

The suit alleges the "defendants concealed and suppressed a material fact about their intentions for the long-term viability of the Alliance of American Football" and that the defendants "intended to conceal the fact that the league was insolvent." Instead, the suit claims the AAF projected it had funding for years. The suit also alleges the defendants "made promises to the plaintiffs and class members regarding the long-term longevity and health of the league. Defendants did not intend to perform the promises made when they made the promises."

The players' suit also alleges Schmidt and Northrup would not have played in the league if they knew it wasn't financially viable from the start.

The players are suing for damages and requesting each plaintiff and class-action member get three times the damages they endured, general damages and punitive damages.

Last month, Polian said during a conference call that Dundon's money gave the league "long-term" stability.

Roberson's suit alleges violations of the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988), which states employees are "entitled to receive 60 days' advance written notice" in the event of a mass layoff. It also alleges that employees were not paid for the 60 days after the layoffs, including commissions, bonuses, holiday pay and vacation pay.

Roberson's suit is asking for the sum of "unpaid wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay, accrued vacation pay pension and 401(k) contributions and other ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974] benefits that would have been covered and paid under the then applicable employee benefit plans had that coverage continued for that period, for sixty (60) working days following the terminations."

The suit also requests interest on those payments as well as "other and further relief" the court chooses to award.

The Roberson lawsuit was first reported by Courthouse News.

The AAF suspended football operations on April 2 and fired most of its employees. While still existing as an entity -- some league employees remain -- most employees lost their jobs on or soon after April 3.

The league and some of its executives, including Ebersol, were sued in February by venture capitalist Robert Vanech, alleging the league was his idea and Ebersol reneged on an agreement to work together to create the league.