United States District Court, D. Maryland
JIAN JUN CHEN, ET AL. Plaintiffs
ZHANGWEI WU, ET AL. Defendants
PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.
Jian Jun Chen and Anai Cheng Mei Lin ("Plaintiffs") have sued Zhangwei Wu and East Dumpling, LLC (collectively, "East Dumpling"), 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 East Dumpling 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. 11, and DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the remaining counts of the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 7, as to all Defendants.
Factual and Procedural Background
East Dumpling is a restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. Zhangwei Wu is the sole proprietor and principal owner of East Dumpling. The Plaintiffs, who are married, began working at East Dumpling beginning in April and May of 2013. Plaintiff Chen was a cook; Plaintiff Lin was a hostess who also worked at the cash register and made drinks.
Plaintiffs allege that East Dumpling failed to pay each plaintiff some of the overtime compensation for hours that they worked in excess of 40 in the work week, and Plaintiff Lin further alleges that East Dumpling failed to pay her wages above the minimum wage. East Dumpling disputes that Plaintiffs were not adequately compensated, due to the value of the meals that they were provided, and the breaks that they were afforded. The parties also dispute whether Plaintiff Lin was a server, the value of the meals received, the circumstances under which the Plaintiffs' employment was terminated, and the number of hours worked.
Plaintiffs filed the Complaint on April 3, 2015, ECF No. 1, and an Amended Complaint on April 17, 2015. Prior to the commencement of discovery, the Parties engaged in settlement negotiations, and on May 20, 2015, submitted the pending Joint Motion for Settlement, ECF No. 11. The parties, by Court order, supplemented the Joint Motion on July 8, 2015. ECF No. 15.
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 ...