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WADLER v. EASTERN COLLEGE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

August 13, 2003

MILTON WADLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EASTERN COLLEGE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE, EASTERN COLLEGE BASEBALL UMPIRES BUREAU AND NICK ZIBELLI, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Martin, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Milton Wadler brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 ("NYHRL") alleging that Defendant Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference ("ECAC") discriminated against him on the basis of race. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff is not an employee of the ECAC and is therefore not protected by Title VII, Section 1981 or the NYHRL.

Wadler, an African American, is a baseball umpire who officiated games for member colleges of the ECAC from 1983 until 1998. The ECAC is a non-profit corporation that facilitates the participation of its 312 member schools in interscholastic collegiate athletic events. Among the support services provided by the ECAC is the assignment of individuals to officiate member schools' games. [ Page 2]

The Eastern College Baseball Umpire's Bureau ("ECBUB") is the division within the ECAC that assigns umpires to baseball games. The ECBUB selects baseball umpires from the membership of the College Baseball Umpire's Association ("CBUA"), an independent organization unrelated to the ECAC. Member schools that require a baseball umpire to officiate a game pay a fee to the ECBUB. Likewise, CBUA umpires who want to officiate ECAC member baseball games pay a fee to the ECBUB. The ECAC baseball umpire coordinator, working with a schedule of member schools' baseball games and with each qualified umpire's self-reported schedule of available times, then assigns a CBUA umpire to each member game. ECAC policy requires that umpires fulfill every assignment and only seek reassignment in cases of emergency. Failure to adhere to this policy will affect an umpire's rank and the availability of future assignments.

Although member schools directly compensate umpires for their services, the base compensation paid to umpires is a figure set by the ECAC after negotiation with the CBUA. Schools pay umpires a flat fee per game and do not pay social security taxes on behalf of umpires. The formula used by member schools to calculate reimbursement for umpires' travel expenses is also set by the ECAC after negotiation with the CBUA. In addition, the ECAC reviews and approves the travel expenses submitted by umpires for payment by member schools. Umpires do not receive [ Page 3]

retirement or other benefits from either the ECAC or its member schools.

Umpires supply their own uniforms, but do so in compliance with the ECAC's uniform dress code, published after negotiation with the CBUA, which provides detailed regulations for each item of clothing worn. In addition, umpires' hats, outerwear and shirts must display the ECAC logo. Failure to comply with the ECAC's dress code can result in sanctions.

The ECAC also evaluates and reviews umpires' skills and abilities. These evaluations establish an umpire's status and rank within the ECAC and affect an umpire's future assignments.

Plaintiff claims that the ECAC discriminated against him on the basis of race by reducing his schedule of games, not assigning him to playoff games and ultimately removing him from the list of available umpires. Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot bring this action because he is not an employee of the ECAC.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment may be granted only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions . . ., together with the affidavits, . . . show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex [ Page 4]

Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty ...


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