REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION*fn1
Before the Court is Albert E. Taylor ("Plaintiff") and Defendant Triage Management Services, Inc.'s ("Defendant('s)") Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 43; "Motion"), filed November 28, 2011; a copy of their Settlement Agreement (Motion at 8-12; "Settlement Agreement"); the Joint Response to Court Order Dated January 9, 2012 (Doc. No. 46; "Notice"), filed January 10, 2012; and Plaintiff's Itemization of Fees and Costs (Doc. No. 47; "Itemization"), filed January 10, 2012.*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 damage[s]," the Court must make a finding that any compromise settlement of the case represents "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA 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of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982); see also Silva v. Miller, 307 F. App'x 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).
In the Complaint, Plaintiff*fn3 seeks an accounting, as well as "back pay, overtime compensation, unpaid benefits and entitlements, liquidated damages equal to his unpaid overtime compensation of benefits and entitlements, plus prejudgment and post-judgment interest, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs; and such other relief as is just and proper." Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 5. The parties state that the case "involves disputed issues that would prolong litigation, consume a significant amount of time, and generate a large amount of additional expenses." Motion at 5. Namely, Defendant contends that Plaintiff was an exempt employee pursuant to the FLSA. Id. Even if he was not exempt, the parties disagree regarding the number of hours Plaintiff worked. Id. In light of these disagreements, and after quite a bit of discovery and litigation, the parties negotiated a compromise settlement which they agree is "reasonable" and "is within the range of Plaintiff's potential recovery and will eliminate unnecessary expenditures and protracted litigation." Id. The parties ask the Court to approve the settlement and to dismiss this matter with prejudice. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff's initial good faith estimate of his overtime compensation owed was $23,984.26 plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, for a total of $47,968.52. Notice of Filing Answers to Court's Interrogatories (Doc. No. 12) at 5. In compromise, Defendant agrees to pay Plaintiff $25,000.00 to settle the case. Motion at 5; Settlement Agreement at 2. In addition to that amount, Defendant will pay $82,000.00 in consideration for Plaintiff's attorneys' fees and $13,000.00 for costs. Motion at 6; Settlement Agreement at 2.
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 his wage claim, Plaintiff has not impermissibly waived his 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. Notice at 1; see Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co., 715 F. Supp. 2d 1222, 1229 (M.D. Fla. 2009). In addition, the Court has reviewed the detailed Itemization and the file and concludes, given the amount of litigation and discovery conducted prior to the settlement, that the fees and costs sought are not unreasonable.*fn4
See id. 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. Accordingly, it is RECOMMENDED:
1. That the Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 43) 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. Marcia Morales Howard United States District ...