United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
McCoy United States District Judge.
Bill Siebert, and Defendant, Novak Environmental Services,
LLC, filed a Joint Motion to Approve Settlement and Dismiss
with Prejudice. (Doc. 22). The parties attached a fully
executed Settlement Agreement as Exhibit A to the motion.
(Doc. 22-1). For the reasons below, the Undersigned
respectfully recommends that the presiding United States
District Judge GRANT IN PART and
DENY IN PART the relief requested.
approve the settlement of claims under the Fair Labor
Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201
et seq. (“FLSA”), the Court must
determine whether the settlement is a “fair and
reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute” of the
claims raised under 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. Lynn's
Food, 679 F.2d 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. Lynn's
Food, 679 F.2d at 1353. 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
Eleventh Circuit has found settlements to be permissible when
employees sue under the FLSA for back wages. Id. at
1354. According to the Eleventh Circuit:
[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.
alleged in the Complaint that Defendant violated the FLSA by
failing to pay him unpaid overtime compensation. (Doc. 22 at
1; Doc. 1 at 3-5 ¶¶ 14-26). “Although
Plaintiff was compensated for some overtime, he alleges that
additional overtime hours worked were not included in his
compensation.” (Doc. 22 at 2). Plaintiff asserted no
other claims in the Complaint. (See Doc. 1).
Defendant filed an Answer denying the allegations and
asserting at least 29 affirmative defenses. (See
Doc. 13). “Defendant contends that Plaintiff was
compensated for all overtime during his employment and that
any hours Plaintiff claimed were either not compensable or
not properly reported.” (Doc. 22 at 3). Defendant also
filed Counterclaims against Plaintiff for alleged breach of a
restrictive covenant agreement, tortious interference with
Defendant's business relationships, and breach of a duty
of loyalty owed to Defendant. (Doc. 22 at 1; Doc. 13 at
9-18). Plaintiff filed an Answer to the Counterclaims,
denying liability and asserting at least 6 affirmative
defenses. (Doc. 17).
OF THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
motion sub judice, the parties explain that
“[f]ollowing negotiations between counsel, the parties
reached a settlement of all claims between them, including
the FLSA claim.” (Doc. 22 at 1-2). The parties
“jointly represent that there are bona fide disputes
between them as to both liability and damages regarding
Plaintiff's FLSA claim.” (Id. at 2). All
parties and their counsel “agree and stipulate that the
settlement represents a fair, reasonable, good faith and
arms-length compromise.” (Id.). The specific
terms of the settlement are contained in a written Settlement
Agreement, which is fully executed and attached to the
parties' motion as Exhibit A. (Id.; see
also Doc. 22-1).
the Undersigned examines aspects of the Settlement Agreement
(Doc. 22-1), the separately executed Non-Solicitation
Agreement attached as Exhibit A to the Settlement Agreement
(Doc. 22-1 at Ex. A thereto), and the parties'
representations in the instant motion concerning both.
Settlement Agreement provides that Defendant will pay
Plaintiff $4, 500 for unpaid overtime wages and $4, 500 in
liquidated damages. (Doc. 22 at 3; Doc. 22-1 at 2 ¶ 6).
The parties' motion explains that “[a]lthough this
is less than the amount claimed by Plaintiff in his FLSA
interrogatories, it represents a significant percentage of
the hours claimed, and the amount of hours represents a fair
and reasonable compromise.” (Doc. 22 at 3; see
also Doc. 18 at 2-3, Answers to Court Interrogatories 4
and 6 (attesting that Plaintiff was paid $18.00 per hour and
claims approximately 358 hours of unpaid overtime between
February 17, 2017 and June 19, 2018)). The Settlement
Agreement further provides that Defendant will pay $6, 000 in
Plaintiff's attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 22 at
4). In all, Defendant has agreed to pay a total of $15, 000
($4, 500 in unpaid wages $4, 500 in liquidated damages
$6, 000 in attorney's fees and costs = $15, 000) to
resolve this litigation. (Doc. 22-1 at 2-3 ¶ 6).
Undersigned finds that the monetary terms are a fair and
reasonable resolution of the disputes in this case given, as
the parties point out, that the $4, 500 in unpaid wages being
paid to Plaintiff “represents a significant
percentage” of the hours Plaintiff claimed in response
to the Court's interrogatories. (Doc. 22 at 3; see
also Doc. 18 at 2-3, Answers to Court Interrogatories 4
and 6). The liquidated damages being paid are equal to the
amount of unpaid wages being paid. (Doc. 22 at 3; Doc. 22-1
at 3 ¶ 6(a)-(b)). Under to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b),
“[a]ny employer who violated the provisions of . . .
section 207 of this title shall be liable to the employee or
employees affected in the amount of . . . their unpaid
overtime compensation . . . and in an additional equal amount
as liquidated damages.” (Emphasis added). A court may -
in its discretion - reduce or deny liquidated damages if the
employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that the act
or omission of failing to pay appropriate wages was in good
faith and that the employer had a good faith belief that the
act or omission was not in violation of the FLSA. Morgan
v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., 551 F.3d 1233, 1282 (11th
Cir. 2008). Here, however, liquidated damages are to be paid
consistent with § 216(b).
relates to the monetary terms of settlement, the Undersigned
accepts and places great weight on the parties' recitals
in the Settlement Agreement as reflecting a qualitative
assessment by the parties and their counsel of the relative
strengths and weaknesses of the FLSA-related claim and
defenses asserted in the litigation, as well as the
Counterclaims. Specifically, the Settlement Agreement states
“[t]here are bona fide disputes between the Parties as
to the Civil Action and Counterclaim, including but not
limited to bona fide disputes as to the number of hours
worked by the Plaintiff, the calculation of any potential
overtime wages alleged owed to the Plaintiff, whether
Plaintiff signed the restrictive covenant agreement in the
Counterclaim and whether the Plaintiff has breached any duty
to the Defendant.” (Doc. 22-1 at 1, ¶ G). It also
states the parties desire to settle the case “[i]n
order to avoid the further costs, burdens and risks of
litigation.” (Id. at ¶ H).
light of these considerations, the monetary terms of the
proposed settlement appear to be a fair and reasonable
resolution of the case.