United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
HARRY CRUZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
HUMANA AT HOME 1, INC. and HUMANA, INC., Defendants.
C. Bucklew United States District Judge
cause comes before the Court on the parties' Joint Motion
to Reopen Case and Approve Settlement. (Doc. No. 49). As
explained below, the motion is granted.
Harry Cruz filed this Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) lawsuit on April 11, 2017 in the
Southern District of Florida, and the case was later
transferred to this Court. On April 13, 2017, Chimere Ford
and Shashana Nixon filed consents to join this action. (Doc.
No. 7, 8). On June 28, 2017, this case was consolidated with
another case, Poggi v. Humana, 8:17-cv-433-T-24 MAP,
with the Poggi case being the lead case. This Court
denied conditional certification in the Poggi case,
but the Court stated that Poggi could file an amended
complaint adding opt-in plaintiffs Ford and Nixon to the
case. (Doc. No. 66 in No. 8:17-cv-433-T-24 MAP). Prior to
filing such an amended complaint, Poggi settled his FLSA
claim, and the Court un-consolidated the Cruz and
Poggi cases. (Doc. No. 41).
Defendants settled Cruz, Ford, and Nixon's claims, and
the parties sought review and approval of the settlement
agreements. (Doc. No. 47). The Court, however, found that
only Cruz was a plaintiff in this case, because an amended
complaint was never filed naming Ford and Nixon as
plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 48). As a result, this Court only
reviewed and approved the settlement of Cruz's claims.
(Doc. No. 48).
Motion to Reopen and Approve Settlement
instant motion, Defendants, Ford, and Nixon ask the Court to
reopen this case and approve the settlement of Ford and
Nixon's claims based on a newly decided case from the
Eleventh Circuit. In Mickles v. Country Club Inc.,
887 F.3d 1270 (11th Cir. 2018), the court addressed the issue
of what is required in order to confer party status on an
opt-in participant in an FLSA case under 29 U.S.C. §
216(b). In Mickles, three people (Lemon,
Houston, and McAllister) filed consents to join the lawsuit.
See id. at 1274. However, the district court denied
the named plaintiff's motion for conditional
certification, because the motion was not timely filed.
See id. The defendant filed a motion for
clarification regarding which people remained
party-plaintiffs, and the district court ruled that Lemon,
Houston, and McAllister were never made party-plaintiffs
because the court had never adjudicated them to be similarly
situated to the named plaintiff. See id. at 1275.
appeal, the appellate court disagreed with the district
court's conclusion that Lemon, Houston, and McAllister
were never made party-plaintiffs. See id. at 1278.
The appellate court noted that this was a question of first
impression in every circuit. See id. at 1277.
However, the appellate court found “that conditional
certification is unnecessary to obtain party-plaintiff
status.” Id. The appellate court explained:
plain language of § 216(b) supports that those who opt
party plaintiffs upon the filing of a consent and that
nothing further, including conditional certification, is
required. . . . [C]onditional certification does not serve
the purpose of joining plaintiffs to the action. . .
.[Instead], conditional certification is solely for
notice purposes and does nothing to determine if a party
becomes a plaintiff. . . . Although § 216(b) also
requires an opt-in plaintiff be similarly situated to the
named plaintiff, the opt-in plaintiffs remain party
plaintiffs until the district court determines they are not
similarly situated and dismisses them.
Id. at 1278 (internal citations omitted). Because
the district court never determined that Lemon, Houston, and
McAllister were not similarly situated to the named plaintiff
and dismissed them, they remained party-plaintiffs in the
case. See id.
on Mickles, the parties argue that Ford and Nixon
are plaintiffs in this case, because this Court never found
them not to be similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. In
fact, this Court specifically acknowledged that they could
remain in this case and directed Poggi to file an amended
complaint to add them as plaintiffs. Accordingly, based on
Mickles, the Court grants the parties' motion to
reopen this case in order to review and approve the
settlements of Ford and Nixon's claims. Furthermore, upon
review of the settlement agreements for Ford and Nixon's
claims and upon due consideration of the record in this case,
the Court finds that the settlement agreements are fair and
reasonable resolutions of bona fide disputes over FLSA