United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
MIRANDO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon review of the Joint Motion
for Settlement for Approval (Doc. 60) filed on October 18,
2017. The parties provided a copy of the proposed Settlement
Agreement and Release. Doc. 60-1. The parties request that
the Court approve the parties' settlement of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims and dismiss
the case with prejudice. Doc. 60. For the reasons set forth
herein, the Court recommends that the settlement be
APPROVED and the case be dismissed with
approve the settlement, the Court must determine whether it
is a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide
dispute” of the claims raised pursuant to the FLSA.
Lynn's Food Store, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982). There are two ways for a
claim under the FLSA to be settled or compromised.
Id. at 1352-53. The first is under 29 U.S.C. §
216(c), providing for the Secretary of Labor to supervise the
payments of unpaid wages owed to employees. Id. at
1353. The second is under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) when an
action is brought by employees against their employer to
recover back wages. Id. When the employees file
suit, the proposed settlement must be presented to the
district court for the district court to review and determine
that the settlement is fair and reasonable. Id. at
Eleventh Circuit has found settlements to be permissible when
the lawsuit is brought by employees under the FLSA for back
wages because the lawsuit provides
some assurance of an adversarial context. The employees are
likely to be represented by an attorney who can protect their
rights under the statute. Thus, when the parties submit a
settlement to the court for approval, the settlement is more
likely to reflect a reasonable compromise of disputed issues
than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about by an
employer's overreaching. If a settlement in an employee
FLSA suit does reflect a reasonable compromise over issues,
such as FLSA coverage or computation of back wages that are
actually in dispute; we allow the district court to approve
the settlement in order to promote the policy of encouraging
settlement of litigation.
Id. at 1354. “Short of a bench trial, the
Court is generally not in as good a position as the parties
to determine the reasonableness of an FLSA settlement. . . .
If the parties are represented by competent counsel in an
adversary context, the settlement they reach will, almost by
definition, be reasonable.” Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt.
Co., 715 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1227 (M.D. Fla. 2009).
Nevertheless, the Court must scrutinize the settlement to
determine whether it is a “fair and reasonable
resolution of a bona fide dispute.” Lynn's Food
Store, Inc., 679 F.2d at 1355.
Plaintiff Melissa Van Dyke filed a Complaint, seeking
recovery of overtime compensation and unpaid minimum wages
under the FLSA and the Florida Constitution against
Defendants Café Luna of Naples, Inc., Café Luna
East, LLC, Shannon Radosti and Edward Barsamian
(collectively, “Defendants”). Doc. 1. Café
Luna of Naples, Inc., a Florida corporation, and Café
Luna East, LLC, a Florida limited liability company, owned
and operated two restaurants located in Collier County,
Florida. Id. ¶ 2. Radosti and Barsamian owned,
managed and operated Café Luna of Naples, Inc. and
Café Luna East, LLC and regularly exercised the
authority to hire and fire employees of the two companies and
determine the employees' work schedules. Id.
Complaint alleges Plaintiff worked as a non-exempt
hourly-paid bartender and supervisor for Defendants
approximately from August 2012 to December 2013. Id.
¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges Defendants did not compensate
her with minimum wages required under the FLSA and the
Florida Constitution. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff
further claims during the term of her employment, she was not
paid any overtime premium for all hours worked in excess of
forty (40) hours within a workweek. Id. ¶ 24.
proposed settlement agreement, Defendants agree to pay
Plaintiff a settlement amount totaling one thousand dollars
($1, 000.00) and provide a general release of claims in
consideration of Plaintiff's underlying claims for unpaid
wages and liquidated damages. Doc. 60-1 ¶ 3(A), (B).
Furthermore, Plaintiff will receive two thousand dollars ($2,
000.00) in costs, which were negotiated separately from her
settlement amount. Docs. 60 at 4, 60-1 ¶ 3(A).
Plaintiff's counsel agrees to waive all attorney's
fees incurred in this matter. Doc. 60 at 4.
estimates her unpaid overtime and minimum wages to be $23,
441.12. Doc. 60 at 2-3. The parties state that they reached
the settlement after conducting sufficient discovery and
exchanging enough information over the past two years.
Id. at 5. Plaintiff represents that the negotiated
amount of settlement funds to be paid to her is reasonable
given Defendants' limited financial resources and the
uncertainty and risk of litigation. Id. at 4. In
light of Plaintiff's burden and the uncertainty of
litigation, the parties state that the settlement amount is a
fair and reasonable compromise of Plaintiff's FLSA
claims. Id. at 4-5.
on the parties' representations and the policy in this
circuit of promoting settlement of litigation, the Court
would be inclined to find the monetary terms of the proposed
settlement to be a fair and reasonable compromise of the
dispute. Other courts in this district similarly have
approved settlements for a compromised amount in light of the
strength of the defenses, the complexity of the case, and the
expense and length of continued litigation. See
e.g., Diaz v. Mattress One, Inc., No.
6:10-CV-1302-ORL-22, 2011 WL 3167248, at *2 (M.D. Fla. July
15, 2011), report and recommendation adopted, 2011 WL 3166211
(M.D. Fla. July 27, 2011); see also Dorismond v. Wyndham
Vacation Ownership, Inc., No. 6:14-cv-63-Orl-28GJK, 2014
WL 2861483 (M.D. Fla. June 24, 2014); Helms v. Ctr. Fla.
Reg'l Hosp., No. 6:05-cv-383-Orl-22JGG, 2006 WL
3858491 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 26, 2006).
addition, the “FLSA requires judicial review of the
reasonableness of counsel's legal fees to assure both
that counsel is compensated adequately and that no conflict
of interest taints the amount the wronged employee recovers
under a settlement agreement.” Silva v.
Miller, 307 F. App'x 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).
Pursuant to Bonetti, 715 F.Supp.2d at 1228,
the best way to insure that no conflict [of interest between
an attorney's economic interests and those of his client]
has tainted the settlement is for the parties to reach
agreement as to the plaintiff's recovery before the fees
of the plaintiff's counsel are considered. If these
matters are addressed independently and seriatim, there is no
reason to assume that the lawyer's fee has influenced the
reasonableness of the plaintiff's settlement.
instant case, the settlement was reached and the costs were
agreed upon separately and without regard to the amount paid
to Plaintiff. Doc. 60 at 4. As noted, as part of the
settlement, Defendants agree to pay Plaintiff's costs in
the amount of $2, 000.00. Doc. 60-1 ¶ 3(A).
Plaintiff's counsel further agrees to waive all
attorney's fees incurred in this matter. Doc. 60 ...