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Rodriguez v. ABM Aviation, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

February 26, 2018

JOHN RODRIGUEZ and ZULEIKA GOMEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
ABM AVIATION, INC., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KARLA R. SPAULDING UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:

         This cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the following motion filed herein:

MOTION: RENEWED JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF UNPAID WAGES SETTLEMENT AND DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFFS' ACTION WITH PREJUDICE (Doc. No. 23)
FILED: February 22, 2018

         I. BACKGROUND.

         Plaintiffs, John Rodriguez and Zuleika Gomez, filed a complaint against Defendant, ABM Aviation, Inc. Both Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant failed to pay them minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Doc. No. 1. In addition, Gomez alleged that Defendant failed to pay her overtime wages in violation of the FLSA. Id. Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to unpaid wages and liquidated damages. Id.

         The parties informed the Court that they had settled the case and filed a motion requesting that the Court approve the settlement in accordance with Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982). Doc. No. 18. I denied that motion without prejudice for three reasons. First, the parties submitted an unsigned agreement. Second, motion was not clear as to whether and to what extent Plaintiffs had compromised their claims. Finally, the proposed settlement agreement impermissibly allowed the parties to modify the agreement. I required that a renewed motion address these issues. Doc. No. 19.

         On February 22, 2018, the parties filed a renewed motion for settlement approval (Doc. No. 23), which is supported by an amended and fully-executed settlement agreement (Doc. No. 23-1). In the motion, the parties stipulate to an order approving their settlement and dismissing this case with prejudice. The motion also clarifies the extent to which Plaintiffs are compromising their claims. Finally, the amended settlement agreement does not include language that would allow the parties to modify the agreement. The matter is now ripe for review.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         In Lynn's Food, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit explained that claims for compensation under the FLSA may only be settled or compromised when the Department of Labor supervises the payment of back wages or when the district court enters a stipulated judgment “after scrutinizing the settlement for fairness.” 679 F.2d at 1353. Under Lynn's Food, a court may enter an order approving a settlement only if it finds that the settlement is fair and reasonable, Dees v. Hydradry, Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1240 (M.D. Fla. 2010), and that the ensuing judgment is stipulated, Nall v. Mal Motels, Inc., 723 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2013).

         When a settlement agreement includes an amount to be used to pay attorneys' fees and costs, 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) (per curiam).[1] If the Court finds that the payment to the attorney is not reasonable, it must consider whether a plaintiff's recovery might have been greater if the parties had reduced the attorney's fees to a reasonable amount. See Id. at 351-52; see also Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co., 715 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1228 (M.D. Fla. 2009) (finding that the Court must consider the reasonableness of attorney's fees when a “settlement does not appear reasonable on its face or there is reason to believe that the plaintiff's recovery was adversely affected by the amount of fees paid to his attorney”).

         III. ANALYSIS.

         A. Whether Plaintiffs Have ...


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