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Greene v. Subcontracting Concepts, L.L.C.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 19, 2014

Milton Greene, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Subcontracting Concepts, L.L.C., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Milton Greene and Jean Baptiste Turenne bring this putative class action, alleging failure to pay minimum wage and overtime, under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"). Pending before the Court are the motion to dismiss and compel arbitration jointly filed by Defendants Subcontracting Concepts, LLC ("SCI"), Robert Slack, and Chelsea Industries, Inc., d/b/a Same Day Delivery ("Same Day Delivery"), Dkt. No. 24, and the motion to conditionally certify a FLSA collective action filed by Plaintiffs, Dkt. No. 21. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is GRANTED and Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Defendants SCI and Same Day Delivery are "in the courier business." Compl. ¶ 20. Same Day Delivery is a New York City-based courier business and "client" of SCI, which provides "payment processing and other back-office services" to companies in the courier and light trucking industries. Compl. ¶¶ 20-22; Weinstein Decl. ¶ 2. Individual Defendants Karmoko Doe and Omar Doe "are the owners, operators, and managers of Same Day Delivery, " and Individual Defendant Robert Slack is the President and Chief Operator Officer of SCI. Compl. ¶ 8.

Plaintiffs Greene and Turenne are couriers who "deliver[ed] groceries to homes throughout Brooklyn, New York." Compl. ¶ 5. This work was directly overseen by Same Day Delivery, which "set[] schedules and wage rates [and] determin[ed] policies with respect to payroll." Compl. ¶ 8. SCI, however, "set the terms of the Owner/Operator Agreement" entered into by Plaintiffs, and was additionally "responsible for hiring and firing employees, setting schedules and wage rates, [and] determining... policies with respect to payroll." Compl. ¶ 9.

Turenne signed the Owner/Operator Agreement ("Agreement") with SCI on February 15, 2012, and Greene signed an identical version on May 26, 2012. See Fidopiatsis Decl. Exs. A, B. Paragraph 26 of the Agreement purports to govern "any dispute, claim, question, or disagreement arising from or relating to this agreement or the breach thereof." Fidopiatsis Decl. Ex. A ¶ 26. The paragraph further provides that any such dispute, claim, question, or difference that exceeds the "jurisdictional maximum for small claims courts within the locality of the Owner/Operator's residence shall be finally settled by arbitration in accordance with the Federal Arbitration Act." Fidiopatsis Decl. Ex. A ¶ 26. At the end of the Agreement, right above the signature block, is stated: "THIS CONTRACT CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION PROVISION... WHICH AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND MAY BE ENFORCED BY THE PARTIES." Fidiopatsis Decl. Ex. A.

Plaintiffs filed their class and collective action complaint on March 6, 2013, alleging, inter alia, violation of the minimum wage and hour provisions of FLSA and NYLL. See Dkt. No. 1. The instant motions were filed on August 14, 2013.

II. MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

Defendants argue that, pursuant to the terms of the Agreement and the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), Plaintiffs' claims must be dismissed and submitted to arbitration. See Def. Br. 3. The FAA provides that an agreement to arbitrate is "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2. "This text reflects the overarching principle that arbitration is a matter of contract, " pursuant to which "courts must rigorously enforce' arbitration agreements according to their terms." American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S.Ct. 2304, 2309 (2013) (citing Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 2776 (2010); Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 221 (1985)). Accordingly, a court should order arbitration if it is satisfied that the agreement to arbitrate: (1) was validly formed; (2) is enforceable; and (3) applies to the dispute at issue. See In re A2P Antitrust Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2013 WL 5202824, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Granite Rock Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 561 U.S. 287, 130 S.Ct. 2847, 2858-59 (2010)).

A. As to SCI

While refusing to "admit that [the Agreement] requires that they arbitrate the claims brought in this lawsuit, " Plaintiffs do not otherwise make any arguments opposing arbitration of their claims against SCI. Pl. Opp. 1. It is, moreover, apparently undisputed that the Agreement was validly formed and generally enforceable. See Pl. Opp. 1.

Nor can there be any dispute that the arbitration provision applies to Plaintiffs' dispute with SCI. By its terms, the arbitration provision broadly applies to "any dispute, claim, question, or disagreement arising from or relating to [the Agreement] or the breach thereof." Agreement, Fidopiastis Decl. Ex. A ¶ 26. With such a "broad arbitration agreement, there is a presumption of arbitrability overcome only if it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute, '" with any "[d]oubts... resolved in favor of coverage." Grenawalt v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, 937 F.Supp.2d 438, 456 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Duane Street Assocs. v. Local 32B-32J, No. 00 Civ. 3861 (SHS), 2000 WL 802889, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 21, 2000)). Under this standard, Plaintiffs' claims against SCI are plainly arbitrable. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to compel arbitration is granted as to those claims.

B. As to Same Day Delivery

Plaintiffs do, however, vigorously contest the applicability of the arbitration agreement to their claims against Same Day Delivery. See Pl. Opp. 1. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that their claims against Same Day Delivery are not subject to the arbitration agreement "because Plaintiffs never signed an arbitration agreement with Same Day Delivery and had no reason to know or suspect that the ...


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