United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
TODD ERLING, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN GRILLE WITH SUSHI LLC and CHRIS K. WHITAKER, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is the Joint Motion to Approve Settlement
and Request for the Court to Retain Jurisdiction for an Award
of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Doc. 47) and Settlement
Agreement (Doc. 47-2), both of which were filed on June 4,
2018. Plaintiff and Defendants jointly request that the Court
approve the parties' settlement of their Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) issues. (Doc. 47 at 3).
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.
the Undersigned applies these standards to evaluate the
proposed settlement in this case.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to compensate him
properly. (Doc. 28 at 5-8). Defendants deny liability. (Doc.
36). Although the parties did little to describe their
disagreement in their Joint Motion, the Undersigned finds
that a bona fide dispute indeed exists between the
parties because this case has been the subject of extensive
though a bona fide dispute exists between the
parties, the parties decided to settle this matter. (Doc. 47
at 1-3). Specifically, “Defendants agreed to pay and
Plaintiff agreed to accept $2, 000.00 to resolve this wage
and hour claim and the Parties agreed for the Court to retain
jurisdiction for an award of attorney's fees and
costs.” (Id. at 1). The parties believe that
their settlement is a fair and reasonable compromise of the
disputed claim. (Id. at 2).
Undersigned has reviewed the Settlement Agreement (Doc.
47-2). Although the parties provided little justification in
their Joint Motion that the amount is reasonable, the Court
nevertheless finds that the terms of the Settlement Agreement
are reasonable as to the amount for unpaid overtime wages,
unpaid minimum wages, and liquidated damages.
coming to this conclusion, the Undersigned notes that
Plaintiff, in his separate Motion for an Award of
Attorney's Fees and Costs, states that he originally
sought $700.00 in connection with his FLSA claims. (Doc. 43
at 1). The settlement amount is almost three times greater
than what Plaintiff initially sought. (Doc. 47 at 1). Under
the FLSA, any employer found to have violated the wage
provisions of FLSA is liable for not only unpaid wages but
also liquidated damages in an additional amount equal to the
amount of unpaid wages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Here,
because the settlement amount is almost three times greater
than what Plaintiff initially sought, the settlement sum