United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”) case is the parties' request to
approve their settlement as fair and reasonable. (ECF No. 8).
Because the proposed settlement meets the applicable
standards, the settlement will be approved.
Kenneth Rietzig filed this complaint on April 28, 2016,
seeking a total of $60, 234.78 in unpaid regular and overtime
wages, plus liquidated damages under federal law, treble
damages under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law,
along with attorney's fees and costs. (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiff was employed by Concepts to Operations, Inc. from
2010 until January 12, 2016. He alleges that he was paid $45
per hour for all hours worked, and is due overtime in the
total amount of $6, 750. His complaint also seeks
approximately $13, 000 in unpaid regular wages which are not
covered by the FLSA.
Request to Approve Settlement
Congress enacted the FLSA to protect workers from the poor
wages and long hours that can result from significant
inequalities in bargaining power between employers and
employees, the statute's provisions are mandatory and,
except in two narrow circumstances, are 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). First, the Secretary of Labor may
supervise the payment of back wages to employees, who waive
their rights to seek liquidated damages upon accepting the
full amount of the wages owed. See 29 U.S.C. §
216(c). Under the second exception, a district court can
approve a settlement between an employer and an employee who
has brought a private action for unpaid wages pursuant to
Section 216(b), 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.” Lynn's Food
Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354
(11th Cir. 1982). The parties submit that, because
Plaintiff is recovering more than the maximum for his FLSA
claim, there has been no compromise and thus there is no need
to address the reasonableness of the agreement. Nevertheless,
in an abundance of caution, the court, like the parties, will
address the relevant considerations.
the Fourth Circuit has not directly addressed the factors to
be considered in deciding motions for approval of such
settlements, district courts in this circuit typically employ
the considerations set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in
Lynn's Food Stores. See, e.g.,
Hoffman v. First Student, Inc., No. WDQ-06-1882,
2010 WL 1176641, at *2 (D.Md. Mar. 23, 2010); Lopez v.
NTI, LLC, 748 F.Supp.2d 471, 478 (D.Md. 2010). Pursuant
to Lynn's Food Stores, 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, 679 F.2d at
1355. Thus, as a first step, the bona fides of the
parties' dispute must be examined to determine if there
are FLSA issues that are “actually in dispute.”
Lane v. Ko-Me, LLC, No. DKC-10-2261, 2011 WL
3880427, at *2 (D.Md. Aug. 31, 2011) (citing Dees v.
Hydradry, Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1241-42 (M.D.Fla.
2010)). Then, as a second step, the terms of the proposed
settlement agreement must be assessed for fairness and
reasonableness, which requires weighing a number of factors,
including: “(1) the extent of discovery that has taken
place; (2) the stage of the proceedings, including the
complexity, expense and likely duration of the litigation;
(3) the absence of fraud or collusion in the settlement; (4)
the experience of counsel who have represented the
plaintiffs; (5) the opinions of  counsel . . .; and (6) the
probability of plaintiffs' success on the merits and the
amount of the settlement in relation to the potential
recovery.” Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinckerhoff,
Inc., No. 08-cv-1310, 2009 WL 3094955, at *10 (E.D.Va.
Sept. 28, 2009) (collective action); see also Poulin v.
Gen. Dynamics Shared Res., Inc., No. 09-cv-00058, 2010
WL 1813497, at *1 n.1 (W.D.Va. May 5, 2010) (applying the
same factors to a settlement that involved only individual
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 agreement.”
Amaya v. Young & Chang, Inc. Civil Case No.
PWG-14-749, 2014 WL 3671569, at *2 (D.Md. July 22, 2014).
Here, an answer was filed and a scheduling order entered. The
parties undertook some formal discovery before entering into
the proposed agreement, and were able to review records
related to Plaintiff's employment. The pleadings, along
with the parties' joint submission regarding settlement,
establish that a bona fide dispute exists as to
Defendants' liability under the FLSA for overtime
the Settlement appears to be a fair and reasonable compromise
of the parties' bona fide dispute. The parties
agreed to settle at before the end of the discovery period,
and there is no evidence that the proposed Settlement is the
product of fraud or collusion. The Settlement Agreement is
the product of negotiations between parties represented by
counsel. The parties report that amount of the settlement
exceeds the overtime wages sought by Plaintiff in her
complaint. The Settlement resolves all disputes between the
court must also assess the reasonableness of the attorneys
fee request. The information provided is very scant, and, by
itself, fails to provide the necessary information. The
parties only represent that Plaintiff's counsel spent
43.2 attorney hours and 6.4 paralegal hours and that all
attorneys have at least 6 years of experience. There is no
mention of an hourly rate. If the $10, 000 is reduced by the
costs of $518, and the remainder divided by 49.6 hours, the
average hourly rate for attorney and paralegal work would be
approximately $190. In another recent case, Plaintiff's
counsel were awarded fees at $250 per hour, despite their
request for $295 per hour. See, Flores Hernandez v.
Hoge, DKC 15-1988, ECF No. 9, 2016 WL 2924918. Based on
the material submitted and referred to in that case, the fee
request in this case appears reasonable, both as to the
number of hours spent and the presumed fee range.
Accordingly, it will be approved.
on the foregoing, the request to approve the Settlement
Agreement will be ...