United States District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni ruled on Wednesday that multiple claims in Brian Flores’s racial discrimination suit can proceed in federal court. Specifically, Flores’s claims against the National Football League (NFL), Denver Broncos, and New York Giants avoid arbitration.
In February, Flores sued the NFL and each of its teams for racial discrimination, alleging discrimination in Flores’s interviews with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants and further alleging discriminatory conduct from the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots during his tenure as head coach of the Dolphins and defensive coordinator of the Patriots.
Since then, other coaches, including Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, have joined the suit, with Steve Wilks adding a claim against the Arizona Cardinals and Ray Horton adding a claim against the Tennessee Titans. Steve Wilks previously served as head coach of the Cardinals, and Ray Horton served as an assistant coach for multiple teams.
In June, the NFL motioned the court to move the case to arbitration pursuant to the league’s rules and employment contracts.
In the end, Judge Caproni moved certain claims to arbitration, including Flores’s claims against the Dolphins and Patriots, Wilks’s claim against the Cardinals, and Horton’s claim against the Titans. Judge Caproni found that the employment agreement between the parties necessitated arbitration.
However, claims against the NFL, Broncos, and Giants can stay in federal court. Judge Caproni declined to move the claims against the NFL to arbitration because the NFL was not a party to Flores’s employment contracts. The Judge in the Gruden case had similar reasoning for denying arbitration. As to the other claims, Flores did not have agreements with the teams.
In two cases (Gruden and Flores), we have seen a court refuse to compel arbitration on claims against the NFL because the NFL is not a party to employment agreements with teams. Expect the NFL to fix this issue in future agreements. Until the league fixes the agreements, plaintiffs may continue to avoid arbitration.