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Betty Connor, On Her Own Behalf and Others Similarly Situated v. Educational Services of America

December 27, 2011

BETTY CONNOR, ON HER OWN BEHALF AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDUCATIONAL SERVICES OF AMERICA, INC. A TENNESSEE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION*fn1

Before the Court is Betty Connor ("Plaintiff") and Defendant Educational Services of America, Inc.'s ("Defendant('s)") Amended Joint Motion to Approve Settlement Agreement and Release and Dismiss With Prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 28; "Motion"), filed December 22, 2011, and a copy of their revised Settlement Agreement and Release (Motion at Ex. A (Doc. No. 28-1); "Settlement Agreement").*fn2 This case was brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. ("FLSA"). In a FLSA case for "back wage or liquidated damages," the Court must make a finding that the settlement of the case represents "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over the Act's provisions" after "scrutinizing the settlement for fairness." Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982); see also Silva v. Miller, 307 F. App'x 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff*fn3 seeks "the payment of all overtime hours . . . , liquidated damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of suit, and for all proper relief including prejudgment interest." Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 11) at 4. The parties state that the "case involves disputed issues," and "the settlement negotiated and reached by the parties resolves all of Plaintiff's claims after Plaintiff and her counsel discussed Plaintiff's alleged overtime hours and pay rates and formulated their own proposed settlement figures separately from Defendant's position." Motion at 4. The parties agree that the settlement represents a "fair and reasonable" resolution of Plaintiff's FLSA claim and request that the Court find the same. Id. at 3, 6. The parties also ask the Court to dismiss this matter with prejudice. Id. at 6.

The parties represent that Plaintiff's initial good faith estimate of her overtime compensation was for two and one-half (2.5) hours per week for approximately ninety (90) weeks, at overtime rates ranging from $20.61 per hour to $20.82 per hour, for a total of $4,655.10. Id. at 3. In compromise, Defendant agrees to pay Plaintiff a total amount of $4,133.34 before taxes (including wages and liquidated damages) to settle the case. Id. at 4; Settlement Agreement at 3-4. In addition to that amount, Defendant will pay $5,000.00 in consideration for Plaintiff's attorneys' fees and $866.66 for costs. Motion at 5; Settlement Agreement at 3.

In light of the parties' representations regarding their investigation and exchange of information prior to reaching the settlement, as well as the disputed issues in the case, the Court finds that by compromising her wage claim, Plaintiff has not impermissibly waived her statutory rights under the FLSA. See Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354. Regarding the award of attorneys' fees, the parties represent that attorneys' fees were negotiated separately from the amounts claimed by Plaintiff. Motion at 4 (citations omitted); see Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co., 715 F. Supp. 2d 1222 (M.D. Fla. 2009). Upon review of the parties' papers and the remainder of the file, the Court finds that this settlement represents "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute" over provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355.*fn4 Accordingly, it is RECOMMENDED:

1. That the Amended Joint Motion to Approve Settlement Agreement and Release and Dismiss With Prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 28) be GRANTED.

2. That the Court enter an Order and Stipulated Final Judgment APPROVING the parties' settlement.

3. That this case be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and that the Clerk be directed to close the file.

kaw Copies to: Hon. Timothy J. Corrigan United States District Judge Counsel of Record

Accordingly, the award of attorneys' fees in this action does not reflect a determination that the hourly rate or time charged by Plaintiff's counsel constitutes a reasonable ...


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