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Hiller v. Schwartz & Feinsod

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 22, 2017

ZACHARY HILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
SCHWARTZ & FEINSOD, JONATHAN FEINSOD, and NEIL SCHWARTZ, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          VINCENT L. BRICCETTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Zachary Hiller brings this action against defendants Schwartz & Feinsod, Inc., Neil Schwartz, and Jonathan Feinsod, alleging defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”), and the New York Labor Law, § 191 et seq. (“NYLL”), by, inter alia, failing to compensate plaintiff for wages due, and retaliating against plaintiff for asking defendants when they would pay him.

         Before the Court are (i) defendants' motion to compel arbitration and stay this action pending resolution of the arbitration pursuant to Section 5 of the National Football League Players Association Regulations Governing Contract Advisors (“NFLPA Regulations”) and Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16 (“FAA”) (Doc. #10), and (ii) plaintiff's motion for a declaratory judgment that the NFLPA Regulations' six-month limitations period is unenforceable as a matter of law (Doc. #23).

         For the reasons set forth below, (i) defendants' motion is GRANTED, and (ii) plaintiff's motion is DENIED without prejudice.

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background

         The following factual background is drawn from the complaint and the parties' submissions in support of and in opposition to the pending motions.

         Plaintiff Zachary Hiller is a certified NFLPA Contract Advisor (i.e., an “agent” for professional football players) who received his certification from the NFLPA in October 2014. As part of the certification process, plaintiff agreed to be bound by the NFLPA Regulations, which govern the conduct of all current and aspiring NFLPA Contract Advisors.

         Section 5 of the NFLPA Regulations establishes an arbitration procedure, which provides in pertinent part:

This arbitration procedure shall be the exclusive method for resolving any and all disputes that may arise from the following:
. . .
(3) The meaning, interpretation or enforcement of a fee agreement;
(4) Any . . . activities of a Contract Advisor within the scope of these Regulations;
. . .
(6) A dispute between two or more Contract Advisors with respect to their individual entitlement to fees owed, whether paid or unpaid, by a player-client who was jointly represented by such Contract Advisors, or represented by a firm with which the Contract Advisors in question were associated.

(Schwartz Decl. Ex. B).

         Defendants Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod are also certified NFLPA Contract Advisors, and, accordingly, are also bound by the NFLPA Regulations and its arbitration provision. Defendant Schwartz & Feinsod, Inc., is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York. Plaintiff alleges Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod are the co-owners of Schwartz & Feinsod, Inc., a sports agency doing business as Schwartz & Feinsod. Defendants do not deny this contention, but instead assert defendants Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod are the sole employees of Schwartz & Feinsod, Inc.

         Plaintiff claims he began working for defendants during the summer of 2011, while completing his sophomore year of college at the University of Michigan. According to plaintiff, he worked Monday through Saturday and Sundays as needed. Plaintiff also claims he worked for defendants during the summer of 2012, Monday through Saturday and Sundays as needed, and that he continued working for defendants, Monday through Friday and weekends as needed, during the summer of 2013 following his graduation from the University of Michigan. During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, plaintiff alleges he “made himself available” to defendants and performed tasks at their direction as needed. (Compl. ¶ 26).

         Plaintiff claims he regularly worked more than forty hours per week for defendants from 2011-13, and his duties included assisting defendants in recruiting potential clients, performing administrative tasks, and running errands for defendants. While defendants dispute these allegations, as discussed in greater detail below, both sides agree plaintiff did not receive any compensation from defendants for hours worked from 2011-13.

         During the 2013-14 academic year, plaintiff maintains he continued working for defendants while obtaining a Master of Science degree in marketing from Baruch College. Plaintiff sought this degree to become eligible for certification as an NFLPA Contract Advisor.[1]

         Plaintiff further claims that during the summer of 2014 defendants required him to travel on recruiting trips for two to three weeks at a time, during which plaintiff was required to “work around the clock.” (Compl. ¶ 31). Plaintiff says he continued to work for defendants during the fall of 2014 and the spring of 2015, performing administrative tasks and working on a former NFL player's campaign to become the head of the NFLPA.

         In May 2015, plaintiff contends defendant Schwartz “ordered” plaintiff to relocate to Atlanta “to handle operations related to defendants [sic] recruiting efforts.” (Compl. ¶ 35). Defendants “assured” plaintiff he would be reimbursed for expenses incurred, including rent, food, transportation, and insurance. (Id.). Defendants also allegedly promised plaintiff he would receive one-third of the compensation defendants received from their client, Garrett Grayson. (Compl. ¶ 35). However, plaintiff claims he never received the promised compensation related to Garrett Grayson, and defendants never reimbursed plaintiff for expenses incurred.

         During the summer and fall of 2015, plaintiff claims he continued to “work[] around the clock assisting defendants in their recruitment of players” and ...


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