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Belen v. Kinneret, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

June 27, 2019

HECTOR O. BELEN, Plaintiff,
v.
KINNERET, INC. and KINNERETII, INC., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LESLIE R. HOFFMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the following motion filed herein:

         MOTION: RENEWED JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OFI SETTLEMENT AND TO DISMISS CASE WITH PREJUDICE (Doc. 25)

         FILED: June 13, 2019

         THEREON it is RECOMMENDED that the motion be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART

         I. Background

         The Plaintiff has alleged a claim for unpaid overtime wages against the Defendant, his former employer, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). See Doc. 1 (Complaint) and Doc. 15 (Plaintiffs answers to the Court's FLSA interrogatories). After engaging in limited discovery as required by the Court's FLSA Scheduling Order (Doc. 14), the Parties reached a settlement. (Docs. 21-22). The Parties filed an initial joint motion for approval of settlement (Doc. 22), which the Court denied because the settlement agreement contained inconsistent provisions relating to the scope of the claims the Plaintiff agreed to waive and release. (Doc. 24). The Court directed the Parties to file a renewed motion for settlement approval on or before June 13, 2019 (Id.), which they did, along with a revised settlement agreement (Doc. 25 (Motion) and Doc. 25-1 (Revised Agreement)). That motion and the revised settlement agreement have been referred to the undersigned for review.

         In response to the Court's FLSA Interrogatories, the Plaintiff claims that he worked for the Defendants as a nonexempt employee between 2015 and 2018 and was paid $24.00 per hour. (Docs. 15 at 4-5; 25 at 2). The Plaintiff claims that he worked an average of five to ten overtime hours per week throughout his employment with the Defendants. (Doc. 15 at 5). The Plaintiff further claims that the Defendants misclassified him as an exempt employee and paid him a salary, therefore failing to compensate him for the overtime hours he worked in violation of the overtime provision of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207, and Florida common law. (Docs. 15 at 5; 25 at 1-2). As a result, the Plaintiff claims that he is entitled to somewhere between $6, 000.00 and $18, 000.00 in unpaid overtime wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. (Doc. 15 at 5).[1]

         Under the Revised Agreement, the Plaintiff will receive $2, 950.00 in unpaid wages, $2, 950.00 in liquidated damages, and $4, 000.00 in attorney fees and costs in exchange for releasing any and all FLSA claims that he may have against the Defendants and other released parties. (Doc. 25-1 at ¶¶ 2-3). The parties assert that the Revised Agreement represents a fair and reasonable resolution of the Plaintiffs FLSA claims and request that the Court grant the Motion and dismiss the case with prejudice. (Doc. 25 at 5).

         II. Law

         The settlement of a claim for unpaid minimum or overtime wages under the FLSA may become enforceable by obtaining the Court's approval of the settlement agreement.[2] Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Dep'tof Labor, 679?.2d 1350, 1352-53 (11th Cir. 1982). Before approving an FLSA settlement, the Court must scrutinize the settlement agreement to determine whether it is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute of plaintiff s FLSA claims. See Id. at 1353-55. In doing so, the Court should consider the following nonexclusive factors:

• The existence of collusion behind the settlement.
• The complexity, expense, and likely duration of the litigation.
• The state of the proceedings and the amount of ...

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