United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
XINIS United States District Judge.
Maria Ferman (Plaintiff) and Defendants Livia Inc., Enzo
Livia and Sandra Livia (collectively,
“Defendants”), jointly move for approval of a
settlement agreement. Plaintiff filed this action alleging
that Defendants denied her overtime pay in violation of the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 201 et seq., and the Maryland Wage and Hour
Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. Article
(“LE”) § 3-401 et seq., and the
Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”), Md. Code, LE § 3-501 et
seq. ECF No. 1.
Court has reviewed the Complaint, the parties' Joint
Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement, and the
Settlement Agreement and Release. ECF Nos. 7, 8, 9. For the
reasons explained below, the Court finds that bona
fide disputes exist under the FLSA, the settlement
agreement is a fair and reasonable compromise of the
disputes, and the attorney's fees are reasonable. See
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d
1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982); Leigh v. Bottling Group,
LLC, No. DKC 10-0218, 2012 WL 460468, at * 4 (D. Md.
Feb. 10, 2012); Lopez v. NTI, LLC, 748 F.Supp.2d
471, 478 (D. Md. 2010). Therefore, the Court will GRANT the
motion and instruct the clerk to close this case.
nineteen years, Plaintiff Ferman worked for Defendants as an
hourly employee in the kitchen of Defendants' restaurant,
IL Pizzico. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 7-9. Plaintiff alleges
that she was denied overtime wages during this time period
for hours worked in excess of forty hours per work week.
Id. ¶¶ 12-16. Plaintiff filed the initial
Complaint on June 23, 2016. The parties engaged in early and
fruitful settlement negotiations. ECF No. 7-1 at 2. On
September 15, 2016, the parties submitted the Joint Motion
for Settlement Approval. Id.
FLSA does not permit settlement or compromise over alleged
FLSA violations except with (1) supervision by the Secretary
of Labor or (2) a judicial finding 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.,
679 F.2d at 1354; see also Lopez, 748 F.Supp.2d at
478 (explaining that courts assess FLSA settlements for
reasonableness). These restrictions help carry out the
purpose of the FLSA, which was enacted “to protect
workers from the poor wages and long hours that can result
from significant inequalities in bargaining power between
employers and employees.” Duprey v. Scotts Co.
LLC, 30 F.Supp.3d. 404, 407 (D. Md. 2014). Before
approving an FLSA settlement, courts must evaluate whether
the “settlement proposed by an employer and employees .
. . is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona
fide dispute over FLSA provisions.” Lynn's
Food Stores, Inc., 679 F.2d at 1355 (emphasis added). To
do so, courts examine whether there are FLSA issues actually
in dispute, the fairness and reasonableness of the
settlement, and the reasonableness of the attorney's
fees. Duprey, 30 F.Supp.3d at 408 (internal
citations omitted). “These factors are most likely to
be satisfied where there is an ‘assurance of an
adversarial context' and the employee is
‘represented by an attorney who can protect [his]
rights under the statute.'” Id. (citing
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc., 679 F.2d at 1354).
Bona Fide Dispute
determining whether a bona fide dispute over FLSA liability
exists, the Court reviews the pleadings, any subsequent court
filings, and the parties' recitals in the proposed
settlement. See Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinkernoff,
Inc., No. 1:08cv1310 (AJT/JFA), 2009 WL 3094955 at *10
(E.D. Va. Sept. 28, 2009). Here, the parties agree that bona
fide disputes exist regarding the extent of Plaintiff's
overtime and her hourly wage. Whether Plaintiff is entitled
to overtime wages as a covered employee under the FLSA is a
fact-specific inquiry that is frequently at the heart of FLSA
litigation. See, e.g., Schultz v. Capital
Int'l Sec., Inc., 466 F.3d 298 (4th Cir. 2006).
Further, the parties also agree that bona fide disputes exist
with regard to whether Plaintiff's claims are covered by
the MWPCL. ECF No. 7-1 at 4. Accordingly, this factor is
Fairness & Reasonableness
determining whether a settlement of FLSA claims is fair and
reasonable, the Court may consider the following:
(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 class counsel and class members after receiving notice of
the settlement whether expressed directly or through failure
to object; and (6) the probability of plaintiffs' success
on the merits and the amount of the settlement in relation to
the potential recovery.
Lomascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *10. Here, the
parties exchanged quickly after suit informal discovery and
participated in prompt, efficient discussions. Id.
at 5. Thus, the parties had sufficient opportunity to
“obtain and review evidence, to evaluate their claims
and defenses[, ] and to engage in informed arms-length
settlement negotiations with the understanding that it would
be a difficult and ...