United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
YAMILET CASTANEDA, and other similarly situated non-exempt employees Plaintiff,
REINALDO MARTINEZ, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
MIRANDO, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the Court upon review of the parties'
Renewed Joint Motion to Review and Approve the Parties'
Proposed Settlement and Thereafter Enter Dismissal with
Prejudice (Doc. 22) filed on January 5, 2018. The parties
provided a copy of the Settlement Agreement and General
Release. Doc. 22-2. The parties request that the Court
approve the parties' settlement of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) claim, and dismiss the
case with prejudice. Doc. 22. For the reasons set forth
herein, the undersigned respectfully recommends that that the
parties' motion be GRANTED.
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.
Yamilet Castaneda, on behalf of herself and all others
similarly situated,  brought this action against Defendant
alleging that Defendant did not compensate her with overtime
pay in violation of the FLSA. Doc. 1 ¶ 32. Defendant was
Plaintiff's employer, with operational control of Rei
Martinez Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Paloma Blanca, the business
where Plaintiff worked. Id. ¶¶ 6, 24.
Plaintiff was a waitress employed by Defendant between 2006
and 2014. Id. ¶ 15. The Complaint alleges that
Defendant failed to maintain proper time records and made no
provision for payment at the statutory required rate of
one-and-a-half times Plaintiff's regular rate for hours
worked in excess of forty hours per week. Id. ¶
November 6, 2017, the Court granted Defendant's Motion to
Stay Proceedings pending a ruling on Plaintiff's Motion
for Rehearing/Reconsideration in No. 11-2015-CA-694, which
was then pending in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for
Collier County, Florida. Doc. 17. In its Order, the Court
directed Plaintiff to file a status report advising the Court
of the status of the state court action every thirty days
from the date of the Order. Id. at 6. On December 6,
2017, Plaintiff submitted a Status Report indicating that the
parties had resolved the claims at issue and were taking the
necessary steps to file appropriate dismissal papers. Doc. 18
at 1. When the parties did not file settlement documents by
December 20, 2017, the undersigned ordered the parties to
file settlement documents on or before January 3, 2018. Doc.
19. The parties subsequently submitted their Joint Motion to
Review and Approve the Parties Proposed Settlement and
Thereafter Enter Dismissal with Prejudice. Doc. 20.
December 28, 2017, the Court entered an Order denying without
prejudice the parties' motion. Doc. 21. The Court noted
that the parties had included a mutual general release, which
was not supported by independent consideration, and a
prohibited confidentiality agreement and further stated that
it was unclear whether Plaintiff's attorneys' fees
had been negotiated separately as required by
Bonetti. Doc. 21 at 5-8. In their present motion,
the parties represent that they have corrected the settlement
agreement in compliance with the Court's Order (Doc. 21).
Doc. 22 at 2.
Revised Proposed Settlement Agreement, Defendant agrees to
issue one check payable to Yamilet Castaneda in the amount of
seven-hundred and fifty dollars ($750.00) for unpaid wages,
overtime, expenses, or other compensation and one check
payable to Yamilet Castaneda in the amount of seven-hundred
and fifty dollars ($750.00) for liquidated damages. Doc. 22-2
¶ 1. The Court notes that the parties have removed the
offending confidentiality provision and mutual general
release, which were previously included in the earlier-filed
Proposed Settlement Agreement. Compare Doc. 20-2
§§ D, F with Doc. 22-2.
previously noted by the Court, each party was independently
represented by experienced labor counsel, who vigorously
represented their clients' rights. Doc. 22 at 6. The
parties submit that to avoid the disruption, expense and
uncertainties of further litigation, they desire to settle
the matter. Id. The parties also note that
Plaintiffs' probability of success on the merits and any
amount awarded is uncertain. Id. Thus, the parties
propose that the settlement represents a reasonable
compromise of a disputed claim. Id. at 7.
on the Court's review of the settlement agreement, the
parties' representations and the policy in this circuit
of promoting settlement of litigation, the Court recommends
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 stipulation of the parties, strength of the
defenses and the expense and length of continued litigation,
as the parties have recognized here. 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, No. 6:10-CV-1302-ORL-22, 2011 WL
3166211 (M.D. Fla. July 27, 2011); see also
Dorismond, 2014 WL 2861483; Helms, 2006 WL
of the settlement, Defendants further agree to pay
Plaintiff's attorneys' fees and costs in the amount
of two-thousand, five-hundred dollars ($2, 500.00). Doc. 22-2
¶ 1. The parties state the amount of attorneys' fees
and costs is reasonable, given that Plaintiff's attorneys
have reduced and waived fees incurred in this action,
including waiving fees for action taken post-Notice of
Settlement. Doc. 22 at 3. The parties assert that the amount
of attorneys' fees was negotiated separately from
Plaintiffs' recovery. Id. at 6-7.
“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.