Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ashworth v. Glades County Board of County Commissioners

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

April 18, 2019

MICHAEL ASHWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
GLADES COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MAC R. McCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Undersigned are the parties' Joint Stipulation for Dismissal With Prejudice, filed on March 12, 2019, (Doc. 32), and the Joint Filing of Additional Information and Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement, filed on April 8, 2019, (Doc. 34). Plaintiff Michael Ashworth and Defendant Glades County Board of County Commissioners jointly request that the Court approve the parties' settlement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims asserted in this case.[1]

         A brief procedural history is instructive. On March 12, 2019, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation for Dismissal With Prejudice (Doc. 32). On March 18, 2019, the Undersigned entered an Order requiring the parties to provide additional information concerning the terms and conditions of the settlement. (Doc. 33). The parties filed the Joint Filing of Additional Information and Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement (Doc. 34) in response to the March 18 Order. (Doc. 34 at 1). After a careful review of the parties' submissions, the Undersigned cannot recommend approval of the proposed settlement, as it currently stands.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To approve the settlement of FLSA claims, 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 Stores, 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 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's review and determination that the settlement is fair and reasonable. Id. at 1353-54.

         The Eleventh Circuit has found settlements to be permissible when the lawsuit is brought by employees under the FLSA for back wages. Id. at 1354. The Eleventh Circuit has held that:

[a 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.

         ANALYSIS

         There are six (6) primary issues that preclude a finding of fairness and reasonableness in this case: (1) the Agreement and General Release is not signed by any of the parties, the parties agree to allow Plaintiff twenty-one days to sign the Agreement, and allow Plaintiff seven days thereafter to revoke it; (2) the discrepancy between the amount originally claimed in Plaintiff's Answers to Court Interrogatories and the ultimate settlement amount; (3) the non-payment or non-allocation of liquidated damages; (4) the non-payment or non-allocation of consideration for certain concessions, including: (a) the mutual general release; (b) the restriction against applying for jobs with the Defendant; (c) the no-rehire provision; and (c) the neutral reference provision; (5) the lack of explanation as to attorney's fees; and (6) the conflicting language concerning Plaintiff's retaliation claim. The Court addresses each of these issues in detail below.

         I. Lack of Signatures and Plaintiff's Right to Revoke

         The parties have not signed the Agreement and General Release. (Doc. 34-1 at 4). Until such time as the parties sign and are bound by the terms of the settlement-subject ultimately to court approval, of course-the Undersigned is unable to find or to recommend that the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable. Otherwise, there is nothing to preclude the parties from either (1) further modifying the Agreement and General Release before it is fully executed without seeking further court approval or (2) returning to the Court with successive motions to approve further modifications to the Agreement and General Release. Either result would run contrary to the requirements of Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355 and its progeny, and undermine judicial economy.

         Further, the Agreement and General Release permits Plaintiff up to twenty-one (21) days in which to sign and then affords Plaintiff an additional seven (7) calendar days thereafter to revoke his agreement. (Id. at 4 ¶ 17). As long as the proposed settlement remains unexecuted and subject to the Plaintiff's right to revoke, there is no actual agreement in place for the Court to review and approve with any assurance of finality. Moreover, upon approval of the settlement by the presiding United States District Judge, the Court would typically dismiss the action pursuant to the settlement. Any delay in executing the Agreement and General Release or any exercise by the Plaintiff of his right to revoke his agreement to the settlement threatens to create procedural and logistical challenges for the Court and for the parties to re-open the case. Considerations of judicial economy weigh very heavily against premature judicial review and approval of a proposed settlement agreement that is not fully executed by the relevant parties or that is subject to any right by a party to revoke the agreement after judicial approval is given. Therefore, the Undersigned finds that the inclusion of a delayed execution provision and a revocation period-even one that facially inures to the benefit of the Plaintiff-precludes a finding of fairness and reasonableness at this time.

         II. The Amount Originally Claimed Versus the Amount ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.