United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Torres and Milton Torres (“Plaintiffs”) have
brought this suit against Washrite Plus, Inc., Wash Rite,
Inc., and corporate owners and operators Edward Walters and
Julie Walters (“Defendants”), alleging violations
of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29
U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., the Maryland Wage
and Hour Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
Empl. §§ 3-401 et seq., and the Maryland
Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md.
Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501 et
seq. The parties have now reached a settlement
agreement, which they jointly request the Court to approve.
reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the
Joint Motion for Approval of FLSA Settlement, ECF No. 10, and
DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all counts of the
Complaint as to all Defendants.
and Procedural Background
Washrite Plus, Inc. (“WRP”) and Wash Rite, Inc.
(“WR”) are Maryland corporations that provide
power washing and cleaning services. They are primarily owned
and operated by Defendants Edward Walters and Julie Walters.
Compl. ¶¶ 2-6, ECF No. 1. According to the
Complaint, Plaintiffs Rudis Torres and Milton Torres were
employed by the Defendants from 2008 until about June 2015.
Id. ¶ 17.
Complaint submits that WRP and WR “operate together as
a ‘single enterprise employer’ presenting itself
to the public as an inter-related power washing and cleaning
and related services entity.” Id. ¶ 5.
The purpose of having two corporations, Plaintiffs allege,
was to “shield liability and attempt to mitigate
payroll and overtime obligations, ” but WRP and WR
nonetheless “use a common bookkeeper and payroll
system” that “serves substantially the same
function for all Defendants.” Id. ¶¶
6, 9. Both WRP and WR are purportedly subject to common
control and operation by the Walters-the primary officers and
owners of the two corporations-who were also responsible for
setting Plaintiffs’ hours and pay rate, for hiring and
firing decisions, and general decisions of day-to-day
operations. Id. ¶¶ 4, 7.
allege that throughout their employment, they regularly
worked over 40 hours per week, but they never received the
overtime rate of one-and-one-half times their regular rate
for hours worked in excess of 40 hours. Id.
¶¶ 18-22, 29-30. While Defendants assert that
Plaintiffs were exempt employees not entitled to overtime
wages, Plaintiffs maintain that they had the work
responsibilities of non-exempt power washers and that they
performed only general labor work duties. See Joint
Motion for Approval of Settlement at 2-4, ECF No. 12.
basis, Plaintiffs initiated this suit on September 30, 2015,
bringing claims pursuant to: (1) in Count 1, the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§
201 et seq.; (2) in Count 2, the Maryland Wage and
Hour Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
Empl. §§ 3-401 et seq.; and (3) in Count
3, the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-501 et seq. In their claims under the
FLSA, Plaintiffs seek all unpaid overtime wages, as well as
an equal amount of liquidated damages (plus interest), and
reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. See
Compl. ¶ 32.
Defendants filed an Answer on November 6, 2015, the parties
engaged in settlement discussions and eventually reached a
settlement agreement. On April 29, 2016, the parties filed a
Joint Motion for Approval of FLSA Settlement, which is now
pending before the Court. ECF No. 10. On July 12, 2016, the
Court requested additional briefing as to the reasonableness
of Plaintiffs’ proposed attorneys’ fees, and, in
response, Plaintiffs filed a Declaration from counsel and
detailed billing records. ECF No. 12.
Court now considers the parties’ Joint Motion for
Approval of FLSA Settlement.
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