United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATED DISTRTICT
Johnson, Rachel Lockwood, and Shaketa Robinson
(''Plaintiffs") have brought this suit against
Heartland Dental. LLC ("Heartland"), alleging
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et
seq. Plaintiffs have each accepted offers of judgment
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 68, which the parties now ask the
Court to approve.
reasons that follow, the Court finds that the accepted offers
of judgment constitute a fair and reasonable resolution of a
bona fide dispute and the requested attorneys fees
are reasonable. The Court therefore GRANTS the Joint Motion
for Approval of the Acceptance of Offers of Judgment and
Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs, ECF No. 27, and
DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the Complaint, ECF No. 1.
Factual and Procedural Background
is a large dental support organization that provides staff
and other services to dental offices in 33 states. ECF No. 12
¶ 7. Johnson worked for Heartland as a salaried office
manager and was assigned to a dental office in Mitchellville,
Maryland from approximately June 2014 until May 2016. ECF No.
27-4 ¶ 4.
filed a Complaint on June 16, 2016 that included a collective
action claim under the FLSA on behalf of "[a] 11
individuals who worked as salaried Office Managers for
Defendant and were classified as exempt from the FLSA since
June 16, 2013, " id. ¶ 21, alleging that
salaried office managers regularly worked more than 40 hours
per week and were improperly classified as exempt from
overtime premium payment, unlike hourly office managers who,
she claims, performed essentially the same function.
Id. ¶15, 16.
joined the suit on June 30, 2016, ECF No. 4, and Robinson
joined the suit on October 3, 2016, ECF No. 13. On November
10, 2016, the parties notified the Court that Johnson had
accepted an offer of judgment of $17, 382.00, ECF No. 17 at 3
and Lockwood had accepted an offer of judgment of $8, 208.13,
id., pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 68. Parties notified
the Court that Robinson had also accepted an offer of
judgment of $2, 500.00 on November 23, 2016, ECF 20 at 1,
after rejecting the first offer presented to her by
Heartland. The offers of judgment did not contain any
admissions of liability.
December 4, 2016, Heartland filed a Consent Motion to Enter
Judgment Under Rule 68. ECF No. 21.The Court responded in a
Memorandum Order dated February 23, 2017, finding that in the
FLSA context, Rule 68 offers of judgment must be reviewed as
if they were settlements and asking the parties to submit the
appropriate materials so that the Court could make an
evaluation. ECF No. 25.
March 10, 2017, parties filed a Joint Motion for Approval of
the Acceptance of Offers of Judgment and Award of
Attorney's Fees and Costs. ECF No. 27.
Standard of Review
enacted the FLSA to protect workers from the poor wages and
long hours that may result from the 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.,
DKC-12-1083, 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)).
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." Beam v. Dillon's Bus Serv., Inc., No.
DKC 14-3838, 2015 WL 4065036, at *3 (D. Md. July 1, 2015)
(citing 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)). The settlement must reflect a "fair and
reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA
provisions." Beam, 2015 WL 4065036, at *3
(quoting Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. By &
Through U.S. Dep't of Labor, Employment Standards Admin.,
Wage & Hour Div., 679 F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir.
1982)). The court considers (1) whether there are FLSA issues
actually in dispute, (2) the fairness and reasonableness of
the settlement, and (3) the reasonableness of the
attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement.
Bona Fide Dispute
deciding whether a bona fide dispute exists as to a
defendant's liability under the FLSA. the court examines
the pleadings in the case, along with the representations and
recitals in the proposed ...