United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is the Joint Motion for Approval of
Settlement (Doc. 39) and Settlement Agreement (Doc. 39-1)
filed on May 24, 2018. Plaintiff and Defendants jointly
request that the Court approve the parties' settlement of
their Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) issues.
approve the settlement of an 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 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, under 29 U.S.C. §
216(c), provides for the Secretary of Labor to supervise
payments of unpaid wages owed to employees. Id. at
1353. The second way, under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), is by a
lawsuit brought by employees against their employer to
recover back wages. Id. When employees file suit,
the proposed settlement must be presented to the District
Court for its 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 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.
case, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to compensate
her properly for overtime work. (Doc. 39 at 3). Defendants
denied liability and disputed that Plaintiff worked in excess
of 40 hours in a workweek and further disputed
Plaintiff's estimations of damages. (Id.). The
parties also disputed whether Defendants had actual or
constructive knowledge of Plaintiff's alleged overtime
hours worked outside of the facility and during meal periods.
(Id.). Finally, the parties disputed whether
liquidated damages were warranted. (Id.). Based on
these contentions, the Undersigned finds that a bona
fide dispute exists between the parties.
though a bona fide dispute exists between the
parties, the parties decided to settle this matter to avoid
the uncertainties and expense of litigation. (Id.).
Indeed, the parties state that “[t]his case would have
been expensive to litigate given the disputed issues and
amount of electronic discovery.” (Id.). The
parties believe that their settlement is a fair and
reasonable compromise of the disputed claim. (Id.).
agreed to a settlement of $26, 000.00 to resolve her unpaid
overtime wages claims. (Doc. 39 at 3; Doc. 39-1 at 1). This
total includes damages for unpaid wages and liquidated
damages. (Id.). The Undersigned has reviewed the
Settlement Agreement (Doc. 39-1) and finds that the terms of
the Settlement Agreement are reasonable as to the amount for
unpaid overtime wages and liquidated damages.
Joint Motion and Settlement Agreement both indicate that
Defendants agree to pay a total of $32, 000.00 for
attorneys' fees and costs. (Doc. 39 at 4; Doc. 39-1 at
1). 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, ...