United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MIRANDO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon review of the Joint Motion
for Approval of Settlement (Doc. 10) filed on April 26, 2018. The
parties request that the Court approve their settlement of
the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims and
dismiss the case with prejudice. Doc. 10. For the reasons set
forth herein, the Court recommends the settlement be APPROVED
and Plaintiffs' claims be dismissed with prejudice.
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, 679 F.2d at 1355.
Kim Jaynella filed a Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial,
seeking recovery of wages under the FLSA against Defendants
Marc S. Schneider, M.D. and the Schneider Centre for Plastic
Surgery. Doc. 1. Defendants are engaged in business in Lee
County, Florida. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Defendants
employed Plaintiff as a non-exempt surgical technician on an
hourly wage basis from December 2017 to January 2018.
Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Plaintiff claims she was not
paid the agreed $13.00 per hour for the 35.25 hours she
worked for Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26(a).
Plaintiff also alleges Defendant failed to maintain proper
time records. Id. ¶ 26(b). Thus, Plaintiff
claims Defendants willfully violated the minimum wage
provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 206. Id.
proposed Settlement Agreement, Defendant agrees to pay
Plaintiff a settlement amount totaling $916.50 in
consideration for Plaintiffs' underlying claims for
unpaid wages and liquidated damages. Doc. 10 at 7. As
additional consideration to support the general release of
claims in the Settlement Agreement, Defendants agreed to pay
Plaintiff more than the amount to which she was entitled
under her FLSA minimum wage claim. Id.; see
29 U.S.C. § 206. Plaintiff believes “she has been
paid a fair and reasonable settlement for all work performed
on Defendants' behalf, and that the settlement between
the parties constitute[s] a fair and reasonable resolution of
a bona fide dispute over FLSA issues . . . .”
Id. at 3.
on the parties' representations and the policy in this
circuit of promoting settlement of litigation, the Court
recommends 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).
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).
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 plaintiffs
instant case, the settlement was reached and the costs were
agreed upon separately and without regard to the amount paid
to Plaintiff. Doc. 10 at 2. Defendant agrees to pay
Plaintiffs' attorney's fees and costs in the amount
of $6, 400.00. Id ...