United States District Court, D. Maryland
PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.
Omoteseme Pringle, Alexis Reddick, and Paul Voorhees ("Plaintiffs") have sued Blair Towers, LLC, Tower Real Estate Group, LLC, and Tower Property Holdings, LLC (collectively, "Blair Towers"), alleging violations of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401 et seq., the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501 et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207. Plaintiffs and Blair Towers have now reached a settlement, and ask for the Court to approve the settlement and dismiss with prejudice all claims in the Complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the Joint Motion for Settlement, ECF No. 44, and DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the remaining counts of the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 29, as to all Defendants.
Factual and Procedural Background
Blair Towers provides real estate property management services in Maryland. The Plaintiffs worked in Maryland as leasing agents for Blair Towers in a complex of apartment buildings in Silver Spring, Maryland. Their duties included showing apartments to potential tenants and performing other duties associated with tenants leasing and moving into an apartment. Plaintiffs lived on site in the complex of buildings where they worked and were paid at an hourly rate.
Plaintiffs allege that Blair Towers failed to pay each plaintiff some of the overtime compensation for hours that they worked in excess of 40 in the work week. While there is no dispute that Blair Towers paid plaintiffs overtime compensation for the hours that appeared on their time cards, the parties disputed whether Plaintiffs worked more hours than their time cards indicated. The parties also dispute whether the Plaintiffs were paid at the wrong overtime rate, due to the fact that their commissions were not included in their regular rate of pay for overtime calculations.
Plaintiffs filed the Complaint on September 26, 2013. ECF No. 1. The parties moved for an extension of the deadline for Blair Towers to respond to the Complaint, and moved to stay the proceedings for 90 days in order to exchange information on an informal basis with an eye towards resolving the matter. ECF No. 10. On May 21, 2014, Blair Towers moved to dismiss the Complaint. ECF No. 17. The Court held a motions hearing and granted Blair Towers's Motion to Dismiss without prejudice, and granted Plaintiffs leave to file an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 28. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, and Blair Towers answered. ECF Nos. 29, 30. By the parties' request, a settlement conference was held before Magistrate Judge Charles Day on February 25, 2015, at which time they reached an agreement in principle. The Court modified the scheduling order to allow the parties to prepare a settlement agreement, ECF No. 42, and on May 13, 2015, the parties submitted the pending Joint Motion for Settlement, ECF No. 44.
Standard of Review
Congress enacted the FLSA to protect workers from the poor wages and long hours that may result from significant inequalities in bargaining power between employers and employees. To that end, the statute's provisions are mandatory and generally not subject to bargaining, waiver, or modification by contract or settlement. See Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945). Court-approved settlement is an exception to that rule, "provided that the settlement reflects a reasonable compromise of disputed issues' rather than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about by an employer's overreaching.'" Saman v. LBDP, Inc., 2013 WL 2949047, at *2 (D. Md. June 13, 2013) (quoting Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir. 1982)).
In reviewing FLSA settlements for approval, "district courts in this circuit typically employ the considerations set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in Lynn's Food Stores. " Saman, 2013 WL 2949047, at *3 (citing Hoffman v. First Student, Inc., 2010 WL 1176641, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2010); Lopez v. NTI, LLC, 748 F.Supp.2d 471, 478 (D. Md. 2010)). The settlement must "reflect a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions." Id. The Court considers (1) whether there are FLSA issues actually in dispute, (2) the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement in light of the relevant factors from Rule 23, and (3) the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement. Id. (citing Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355; Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc., 2009 WL 3094955, at *10 (E.D. Va. Sept. 28, 2009); Lane v. Ko-Me, LLC, 2011 WL 3880427, at *2-3 (D. Md. Aug. 31, 2011)).
Bona Fide Dispute
In deciding whether a bona fide dispute exists as to a defendant's liability under the FLSA, courts examine the pleadings in the case, along with the representations and recitals in the proposed settlement ...