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Garcia v. G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc.

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

September 16, 2019




         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the parties' Joint Motion to Approve Settlement Agreement (“Motion”) (Doc. 17) and their Joint Supplemental Memorandum in support thereof (Doc. 19).[2] The Motion was referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation regarding an appropriate resolution. (Doc. 16.) For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion be GRANTED, the Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release (“Agreement”) (Doc. 17-1) be APPROVED, and this action be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the instant action seeking unpaid minimum and overtime wages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. (“FLSA”), as well as unpaid wages under Florida common law (Doc. 3). According to the Complaint, Plaintiff is employed by Defendant as a non-exempt CFO Security Officer. (Id. at 2-3.) During the relevant time period, Plaintiff worked in excess of forty hours per week, and Defendant failed to pay him the required minimum and overtime wages in violation of the FLSA and Florida law. (Id. at 3-6.) Plaintiff sought compensation for all unpaid minimum and overtime wages, liquidated damages, attorney's fees and costs, pre-judgment interest, and declaratory relief. (Id.) The parties now request that the Court approve their settlement of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. 17.)

         II. Standard

         Section 216(b) of the FLSA provides in part:

Any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or 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. . . . The court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action.

29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

         “[I]n the context of suits brought directly by employees against their employer under section 216(b) . . . the district court may enter a stipulated judgment after scrutinizing the settlement for fairness.” Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). Judicial review is required because the FLSA was meant to protect employees from substandard wages and oppressive working hours, and to prohibit the contracting away of these rights. Id. at 1352. “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, ” the district court is allowed “to approve the settlement in order to promote the policy of encouraging settlement of litigation.” Id. at 1354. In short, the settlement must represent “a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.” Id. at 1355. In addition, the “FLSA requires judicial review of the reasonableness of counsel's legal fees to assure both that counsel is compensated adequately and that no conflict of interest taints the amount the wronged employee recovers under a settlement agreement.” Silva v. Miller, 307 Fed.Appx. 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam).[3]

         In Bonetti v. Embarq Management Co., the court analyzed its role in determining the fairness of a proposed settlement under the FLSA, and concluded:

[I]f the parties submit a proposed FLSA settlement that, (1) constitutes a compromise of the plaintiff's claims; (2) makes full and adequate disclosure of the terms of settlement, including the factors and reasons considered in reaching same and justifying the compromise of the plaintiff's claims; and (3) represents that the plaintiff's attorneys' fee was agreed upon separately and without regard to the amount paid to the plaintiff, then, unless the settlement does not appear reasonable on its face or there is reason to believe that the plaintiff's recovery was adversely affected by the amount of fees paid to his attorney, the Court will approve the settlement without separately considering the reasonableness of the fee to be paid to plaintiff's counsel.

715 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1228 (M.D. Fla. 2009). Other cases from this district have indicated that when attorneys' fees are negotiated separately from the payment to a plaintiff, “an in depth analysis [of the reasonableness of the fees] is not necessary unless the unreasonableness is apparent from the face of the documents.” King v. My Online Neighborhood, Inc., No. 6:06-cv-435-Orl-22JGG, 2007 WL 737575, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 7, 2007).

         III. Analysis

         The Agreement provides that Defendant will pay $1, 237.50 to Plaintiff ($618.75 for unpaid overtime wages and $618.75 for liquidated damages) and $4, 000.00 to Plaintiff's counsel for attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 17 at 2; Doc. 17-1 at 1; Doc. 19 at 2.) The parties represent that Plaintiff's attorney's fees and costs were agreed ...

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