United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. SPAULDING UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:
cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the
following motion filed herein:
MOTION: SECOND AMENDED JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF
SETTLEMENT (Doc. No. 33)
FILED: April 4, 2018
April 11, 2017, Plaintiff Reggie Turner filed a complaint
against HJB Express Freight, Inc. and Hilda Jacqueline
Brooks. Doc. No. 1. Turner alleges that he was employed as a
delivery driver by HJB Express Freight, which was owned and
managed by Brooks. Id. ¶¶ 6, 11, 16.
Turner further alleges that he routinely worked an average of
50 to 60 hours per week, but he was not compensated for all
the hours he worked over 40 hours and was not compensated at
a rate of at least the minimum wage. Id. ¶ 26.
He asserts three counts - one alleging that Defendants
violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et
seq., one alleging that Defendants violated the minimum
wage provisions of the FLSA, and one for recovery of unpaid
wages under Section 448, Florida Statutes. Turner contends
that he is entitled to unpaid wages, overtime compensation,
compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, and
attorney's fees and costs. In her answer to the
Complaint, Defendant Brooks asserted a counter-claim arising
from Turner's alleged failure to make a pick-up. Doc. No.
January 26, 2018, the parties filed a notice that they had
tentatively settled Turner's claims. Doc. No. 24. The
parties were directed to file a motion for settlement
approval under Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United
States, 679 F.2d 1360 (11th Cir. 1982). Doc. No. 26. I
denied the parties' initial motion without prejudice
after concluding that the proposed Settlement Agreement
included a number of provisions that undermined the fairness
of the agreement. Specifically, I noted that the Settlement
Agreement: did not confine the release of claims to wage
claims; included several non-cash provisions including a
waiver of re-hiring/reinstatement, a non-disparagement and
no-reentry onto property clause, and a covenant of
confidentiality; and included a paragraph entitled
“Other Judicial and Administrative Proceedings, ”
that required Turner to withdraw or refrain from filing
administrative charges, which was likely unenforceable. Doc.
No. 28. The parties were directed to file a renewed motion
for settlement approval. I subsequently denied the renewed
motion because the Settlement Agreement attached to the
renewed motion was substantially identical to the previous
agreement that was found to be deficient. Doc. No. 32.
parties were permitted to file a second renewed motion for
settlement approval. The parties filed that motion on April
4, 2018 and it is ripe for review.
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
only enter an order approving a settlement 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).
settlement agreement includes an amount to be used to pay
attorney's 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 Fed.Appx.
349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam). 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
Whether Plaintiff Has Compromised His Claim.
Settlement and Release Agreement (“Settlement
Agreement”), which is attached to the parties'
motion, provides that in exchange for Turner voluntarily
dismissing his claims with prejudice, Defendants will pay the
total gross amount of $5, 000.00 - $1, 000.00 for
Turner's claims for damages and unpaid wages and $4,
000.00 to pay the fees incurred by his attorneys. Doc. No.
33, at 11, ¶ 1. The agreement calls for Turner and his
counsel, Chad A. Barr, Esq., both to receive checks in the
amount of $1, 000.00 within fifteen days after Court approval
of the Agreement and for Turner's counsel to subsequently
receive three separate payments of $1, 000.00 within the
following ninety days. Id. at 3, ¶ 1 A-D.
answers to the Court's FLSA Interrogatories, Turner
estimated that he was owed $1, 680.00 in unpaid overtime
during the relevant time period and an equal amount in
liquidated damages, for a total of $3, 360.00. Doc. No. 19,
at 3. Because Turner will receive only $1, 000.00 under the
Settlement Agreement, I recommend that the Court find that he
has compromised his claim within the meaning of
Whether the Amount Is Fair and Reasonable.
Turner has compromised his FLSA claim, the Court must
evaluate whether the settlement is reasonable. The parties
state that there are disputed issues in this case, including
whether Turner is entitled to overtime compensation and
whether he is entitled to compensation for accrued and unused
vacation pay. Doc. No. 33, at 4. They explain that they
reached a compromise to avoid engaging in costly discovery, a
potential trial, and the complexity, expense and length of
future litigation. Id. at 5.
parties represent that they participated in settlement
discussions and that both parties were represented by
competent counsel in an arms-length negotiations.
Id. “If the parties are represented by
competent counsel in an adversary context, the settlement
they reach will, almost by definition, be reasonable.”
Bonetti, 715 F.Supp.2d at 1227. Under these
circumstances, I recommend that ...