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Lennon v. Claims Questions, LLC

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

August 2, 2019

MALVAMEL LENNON and CYNTHIA AURELIO on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
CLAIMS QUESTIONS, LLC, d/b/a ROL INSURANCE CONSULTING, a Florida Limited Liability Company, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [1]

          JAMES R. KLINDT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court on the Joint Motion for Approval of the Settlement of Plaintiffs' FLSA Claims and for Dismissal with Prejudice (Doc. No. 23; “Motion”), filed July 22, 2019. In the Motion, the parties seek the Court's approval of their settlement agreements, and they request that this case be dismissed with prejudice. Motion at 5. The Motion is referred to the undersigned for the issuance of a report and recommendation regarding an appropriate resolution. See Track Notice and FLSA Scheduling Order (Doc. No. 4), entered March 29, 2019, at 3; Order of Administrative Closure and Reference (Doc. No. 24), entered July 29, 2019, at 2.

         On March 22, 2019, Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a Collective Action Complaint (Doc. No. 1) against Defendant and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation of Florida (“Citizens”) for overtime wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. (“FLSA”). On May 23, 2019, Plaintiffs dismissed Citizens from the case by filing a First Amended Collective Action Complaint (Doc. No. 14; “Amended Complaint”) that did not name Citizens as a defendant.

         Plaintiffs allege in the Amended Complaint that they worked as “Litigation Specialists” for Defendant. Amended Complaint at 3 ¶¶ 12-13. As Litigation Specialists, they “provide[d] adjusting services on Citizens'[s] accounts.” Id. at 1-2 ¶ 2. Plaintiffs state that Litigation Specialists were “classified as ‘independent contractors' and paid a day rate for all hours worked with no additional overtime compensation paid.” Id. at 2 ¶ 2. According to Plaintiffs, “[t]hese workers have been misclassified as independent contractors under the FLSA and should have been classified as employees, ” and “[a]s such, they are entitled to overtime compensation for overtime hours worked.” Id. Plaintiffs allege that “[d]uring the course of their employment, Plaintiffs . . . regularly worked in excess of forty (40) hours in individual workweeks.” Id. at 7 ¶ 45. Plaintiffs state that “[i]t was not uncommon for Plaintiffs to work between sixty (60) and sixty-five (65) hours (or more) in a given week.” Id. at 8 ¶ 53.

         In Plaintiff Malvamel Lennon's Answers to Court's Interrogatories (Doc. No. 18; “Lennon's Answer to Court's Interrogatories”), filed June 6, 2019, Plaintiff Lennon represents the following:

Based on the time records I maintained tracking hours worked each week[, ] I have determined that under a “half-time” calculation I am owed $8, 785.41 in unpaid overtime wages through the duration of my employment with Defendant, plus an equal and additional amount for liquidated damages, all attorneys' fees and costs incurred on my behalf, any and all such other damages that the Court deems just and appropriate. However, based on a “time and one-half” calculation, I am owed $17, 570.81 plus an equal and additional amount for liquidated damages.

         Lennon's Answer to Court's Interrogatories at 2 (emphasis omitted).

         In Plaintiff Cynthia Aurelio's Answers to Court's Interrogatories (Doc. No. 19; “Aurelio's Answer to Court's Interrogatories”), filed June 6, 2019, Plaintiff Aurelio represents the following:

Based on the time records I maintained tracking hours worked each week[, ] I have determined that under a “half-time” calculation I am owed $5, 022.33 in unpaid overtime wages through the duration of my employment with Defendant, plus an equal and additional amount for liquidated damages, all attorneys' fees and costs incurred on my behalf, any and all such other damages that the Court deems just and appropriate. However, based on a “time and one-half” calculation, I am owed $10, 044.66 plus an equal and additional amount for liquidated damages.

         Aurelio's Answer to Court's Interrogatories at 2 (emphasis omitted).

         The parties have entered into a settlement agreement with each Plaintiff to resolve Plaintiffs' claims. See Motion Ex. A (Doc. No. 23-1; “Lennon's Settlement Agreement”), Ex. B (Doc. No. 23-2; “Aurelio's Settlement Agreement”) (collectively “Settlement Agreements”). Under the terms of Lennon's Settlement Agreement, Defendant agrees to pay Plaintiff Lennon a total of $10, 000.00 and Plaintiff Lennon's counsel $11, 500.00 for attorney's fees and costs. Lennon's Settlement Agreement at 2 ¶ 4. Under the terms of Aurelio's Settlement Agreement, Defendant agrees to pay Plaintiff Aurelio a total of $7, 500.00 and Plaintiff Aurelio's counsel $11, 500.00 for attorney's fees and costs. Lennon's Settlement Agreement at 2 ¶ 4.

         The parties represent they entered into the Settlement Agreements “[r]ecognizing the time and expense and uncertainty of litigation . . . .” Motion at 3 ¶ 8. According to the parties, “[t]he settlement is a compromise of a disputed claim as to whether Plaintiffs were misclassified as independent contractors.” Id. at 4 ¶ 13. The parties “stipulate and agree that the settlement is a fair and reasonable settlement of the controversies involved in this case.” Id. ¶ 14. The parties also represent that the attorney's fees and costs were “negotiated freely and independently and without regard to the amount of recovery by Plaintiffs . . . .” Id. ¶ 11.

         In an FLSA case for “back wage[s] or liquidated damage[s], ” the Court must make a finding that any compromise settlement of the case represents “a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions” after “scrutinizing the settlement for fairness.” Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982); see also Nall v. Mal-Motels, Inc., 723 F.3d 1304, 1306 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted); Silva v. Miller, 307 Fed.Appx. 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).

         In light of the representations made by the parties and upon review of the Motion, the Settlement Agreements, and the remainder of the file, the Court finds that the Settlement Agreements, including the award of attorney's fees and costs, represent “a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide ...


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