United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
AARON EDGERTON, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ADVANCED DISPOSAL SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court are the parties' Joint Motion to Approve
the Parties' Settlement (Doc. 21) and the Settlement
Agreement (Doc. 21-1) filed on February 28, 2018. Plaintiff
Aaron Edgerton, Opt-In Plaintiff Jeffrey Wedding, and
Defendant Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. or Advanced
Disposal Services Solid Waste Southeast, Inc.
(“Advanced Disposal”) request that the Court
approve the parties' settlement of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) claim. After consideration
of the parties' submissions, the Undersigned recommends
that the Court enter an Order approving the settlement and
dismiss this case with prejudice.
approve the settlement of the FLSA claim, the Court must
determine whether the settlement is a “fair and
reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute” of the
claims raised pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”). Lynn's Food Store, Inc. v.
United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982); 29
U.S.C. § 216. 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's review and determination that the
settlement is fair and reasonable. Id. at 1353-54.
Eleventh Circuit has found settlements to be permissible when
the lawsuit is brought by employees under the FLSA for back
wages. Id. at 1354. The Eleventh Circuit held that:
[a 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
Edgerton asserts that on or about April 28, 2016, Advanced
Disposal hired him to work as a non-exempt driver. (Doc. 1 at
3 ¶ 16). Mr. Edgerton claims that Advanced Disposal
miscalculated the overtime rate and automatically deducted a
lunch break resulting in unpaid wages, including overtime.
(Id. at ¶ 17). Thus, Mr. Edgerton asserts that
at various times, he worked in excess of forty (40) hours in
a single workweek and was not properly paid for this time.
(Id. at ¶¶ 18, 19). Opt-In Plaintiff
Wedding filed a Consent to Joint Collective Action. (Doc.
9-1). Mr. Wedding claims that he is or was an employee of
Advanced Disposal. (Id. at 1). He consented to
“the bringing of any claims I may have under the Fair
Labor Standards Act (for unpaid wages, liquidated damages,
attorney's fees, costs and any other relief) against the
Disposal denies that Plaintiff and/or Opt-In Plaintiff are
entitled to the amounts claimed in this action. (Doc. 21 at
3). Thus, even though a bona fide dispute exists
between the parties and the parties arguably were eventually
headed to arbitration, the parties decided to settle this
matter. (Id.). Advanced Disposal agrees to pay Mr.
Edgerton $950.00 in damages and $950.00 in liquidated
damages; and agrees to pay Mr. Wedding $1, 000.00 in damages
and $1, 000.00 in liquidated damages. (Doc. 21-1 at 3
¶¶ 2(a)-(d). Upon review of the Settlement
Agreement (Doc. 21-1), the Court determines that the terms of
the Settlement Agreement are reasonable.
Disposal also agrees to pay $5, 400.00 in attorney's fees
and costs. (Doc. 21-1 at 3 ¶ 2(e). The amount of
attorney's fees and costs were agreed upon separately,
and without regard to the amount paid to Plaintiff and Opt-In
Plaintiff. (Doc. 21 at 3-4). As explained in Bonetti v.
Embarq Management Company, 715 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1228
(M.D. Fla. 2009), “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.” In
Bonetti, Judge Presnell concluded:
[I]f the parties submit a proposed FLSA settlement that, (1)
constitutes a compromise of the plaintiff's claims; (2)
makes full and adequate disclosure of the terms of
settlement, including the factors and reasons considered in
reaching same and justifying the compromise of the
plaintiff's claims; and (3) represents that the
plaintiff's attorneys' fee was agreed upon separately
and without regard to the amount paid to the plaintiff, then,
unless the 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, the Court will approve the settlement without
separately considering the reasonableness of the fee to be
paid to plaintiff's counsel.
Id. In the instant case, a settlement was reached,
and the attorney's fees were agreed upon without
compromising the amount paid to Plaintiff and Opt-In
Plaintiff. The Settlement Agreement (Doc. 21-1) appears
reasonable on its face. Thus, the Court recommends that the
Settlement Agreement (Doc. 21-1) be approved.
in granting Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis, the Court ordered that
“[i]f Plaintiff prevails in this action, Plaintiff may
be required to reimburse the Court for the costs in this
case.” (See Doc. 6 at 2); M.D. Fla. R.
4.07(b). Upon consideration, the Court also recommends that
Plaintiff and Opt-In Plaintiff be directed to reimburse all
non-prepaid fees and costs.