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Requeno Navarro v. Eternal Trendz Customs, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 2, 2015

ANA CECILIA REQUENO NAVARRO and SARA ROSELIA BARRERA GONZALEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
ETERNAL TRENDZ CUSTOMS, LLC and WILLIAM SENIOR, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THEODORE D. CHUANG, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the parties' Joint Motion for Order Approving Settlement Agreement ("Joint Motion"). ECF No. 11. The parties assert that the Court should approve their agreed-upon settlement, consisting of unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees, thereby resolving the allegations in the Complaint arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (2012), the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Labor & Empl., § 3-501 et seq., and the Maryland Wage & Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Arm., Labor & § 3-401 et seq. The Court has reviewed the Joint Motion and the Supplement to the Joint Motion ("Supplement") ECF No. 13. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED and the settlement is APPROVED.

BACKGROUND

On September 9, 2014, Plaintiffs Ana Cecilia Requeno Navarro ("Requeno Navarro") and Sara Roselia Barrera Gonzalez ("Barrera Gonzalez") filed a Complaint against Eternal Trendz Customs, LLC ("Eternal Trendz") and its owner, William Senior, alleging that, while working as car washers for Eternal Trendz from 2011 to 2014. Plaintiffs worked in excess of 40 hours per week and were not compensated for overtime hours at the required rate of one and one-half times their hourly pay rate, in violation of the FLSA, the MWPCL, and the MWHL. Compl. ¶¶18-19, 25-40. Requeno Navarro alleged that she was owed $13, 350 in overtime wages; Barrera Gonzalez alleged that she was owed $6, 145 in unpaid overtime. Id. ¶¶ 18-19.

On January 14, 2015, the parties filed a Joint Motion for Order Approving Settlement Agreement in which they reported that the panics had reached a settlement totaling $9, 135.58, consisting of the following payments:

1. Barrera Gonzalez would receive $4, 291.49. consisting of $2, 145.74 in unpaid overtime wages and $2, 145.75 in liquidated damages;
2. Requeno Navarro would receive $1, 298.89, consisting of $649.44 in unpaid overtime wages and $649.45 in liquidated damages;
3. Plaintiffs' counsel would receive $3.545.20 in attorney's fees and costs, consisting of $2.520.75 attributable to Barrera Gonzalez's claim and $1, 024.45 attributable to Requeno Navarro's claim.

Joint Mot. Ex. A, ECF No. 11-1.

DISCUSSION

Legal Standard

Congress enacted the FLSA to protect workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours. Borrentine v. Ark-Best Freight Sys., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981). Because of the significant inequalities in bargaining power between employers and employees, the statute's provisions are mandatory and generally are not subject to bargaining, waiver, or modification by contract or settlement. See Brooklyn Say. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697. 706 (1945). A court-approved stipulated judgment or settlement is an exception to that rule. See D. A. Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi, 328 U.S. 108. 113 n.8 (1946); Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982). Such a settlement may be approved provided that it reflects a "reasonable compromise of disputed issues" rather than "a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about by an employer's overreaching." Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354; accord Saman v. LBDP, Inc., No. DKC-12-1083, 2013 WL 2949047. at *2 (D. Md. June 13, 2013).

Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has not specifically identified the factors to be considered in approving FLSA settlements, district courts in this circuit typically employ the considerations set forth by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Lynn's Food Stores, See, e.g., Lopez v. NTI, LLC, 748 F.Supp.2d 471, 478 (D. Md. 2010); see also Saman, 2013 WL 2949047 at *3; Hoffman v. First Student, Inc., No. WDQ-06-1882, 2010 WL 1176641, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2010). An FLSA settlement generally should be approved if it reflects "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions." Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355. The analysis includes consideration of (1) whether there are FLSA issues actually in dispute; (2) the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement; and (3) the reasonableness of the attorney's fees, if included in the agreement. Saman, 2013 WL 2949047, at ...


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