United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
WAYNE O. BROWN, and other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
LEE MEMORIAL HEALTH SYSTEM FOUNDATION, INC., Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
parties filed a Joint Motion for Entry of Order Approving
Settlement and Dismissing Case with Prejudice on October 18,
2019. (Doc. 15). The parties' fully executed settlement
agreement is attached to their motion as Exhibit A.
(See Doc. 15-1). For the reasons below, the
Undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion be
GRANTED, subject to the Court severing and
striking the future employment provision in paragraph 5 of
the agreement (Doc. 15-1 at ECF pp. 3-4 ¶ 5).
Alternatively, if the Court does not sever and strike the
future employment provision, the Undersigned respectfully
recommends that the motion be denied without prejudice for
the reasons explained below.
approve the settlement of claims under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“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. 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 employees sue, 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.
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.
brought this action under the FLSA alleging unpaid overtime
wages. (Doc. 15 at 1; see also Doc. 1).
Specifically, “Plaintiff alleged that he was owed an
average of 2.5 hours per week corresponding to lunch time he
alleges he did not take but which was nevertheless
automatically deducted from his pay - regardless of whether
he took lunch or not.” (Doc. 15 at 4; see also
Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 10-11). The Complaint alleges and the
parties' motion explains that Plaintiff claims to be owed
$7, 946.04 for unpaid overtime, calculated as set forth in
detail in the Complaint and the motion. (See Doc. 15
at 4-5; see also Doc. 1 at ¶ 32).
parties reached a settlement before Defendant filed a
response to the Complaint and before the Court could order
Plaintiff to respond to the Court's standard
interrogatories concerning the details of Plaintiff's
damages claim. (See Docs. 13, 15). According to the
parties' motion, however, “Defendant has denied any
and all liability with regards [sic] to Plaintiff's
claims, including the amount of alleged unpaid overtime wages
in this action and asserts that Plaintiff was paid correctly
at all times under the FLSA. Moreover, Defendant has denied
any and all liability and asserts sovereign immunity in this
matter.” (Doc. 15 at 1).
the parties' motion confirms that this action represents
a bona fide dispute under the FLSA: “The Parties agree
that the instant action involves disputed issues. Although
Defendant disputes its liability for the allegedly owed
overtime wage payments to Plaintiff, it has ultimately agreed
to pay Plaintiff the amount described [in the Motion] as a
fair and reasonable compromise in order to resolve the
disputed claims.” (Id. at 3). In particular,
“the parties agree that there are genuine disputes as
to whether or not Plaintiff did in fact take lunch on a daily
basis; and whether or not Plaintiff was in fact paid properly
for all hours Plaintiff allegedly worked, including
overtime.” (Id. at 6). Moreover, the parties
dispute whether “Plaintiff's claims should be
dismissed in this forum, since [sic] Defendant, as a
governmental agency, is entitled to sovereign immunity.
Consequently, Plaintiff could have been barred from any
recovery whatsoever with regards [sic] to his claims for
unpaid overtime wages in this forum had Defendant prevailed
on its defense.” (Id.). In terms of scope, the
parties' proposed settlement resolves all of
Plaintiff's claims, including the claims for
attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 5).
specific terms of the settlement are contained in a written
Settlement Agreement and Release, which is fully executed and
attached to the parties' motion as Exhibit A (Doc. 15-1).
Below, the Undersigned examines aspects of the proposed
settlement agreement (Doc. 15-1) and the parties'
representations in the instant motion concerning the proposed