United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
Memorandum Opinion and Order addresses Plaintiff CODY SIMPSON
(“Simpson”) and Defendant PURE TECHNOLOGIES,
U.S., INC.'s (“Pure Technologies”) Joint
Motion for Judgment. ECF No. 20. Simpson has accepted Pure
Technologies' Offer of Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule
Civil Procedure 68, and the parties request that this Court
approve and enter the judgment. For the reasons that follow,
the Court requires additional information before ruling on
is a former employee of Pure Technologies. ECF No. 1 at
¶ 9. On August 31, 2017, Simpson and co-Plaintiffs
Nicholas Redding and Brian Miles (collectively
“Plaintiffs”), filed a complaint on behalf of
themselves and those similarly situated, alleging that Pure
Technologies improperly classified Plaintiffs as salaried
employees and failed to pay them overtime wages in violation
of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”),
Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”), and the
Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”). Id. at ¶¶ 65-68,
80, 84-85. Pure Technologies filed an answer on September 29,
2017, denying the allegations in the Complaint. ECF No. 4.
October 30, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to conditionally certify a
class of similarly-situated Pure Technologies employees under
the FLSA's collective action provision, 29 U.S.C. §
216(b). See ECF Nos. 11 & 11-1. On November 7,
2017, a telephone conference was held in which the Court
determined that limited discovery was necessary before
Defendant Pure Technologies would respond to Plaintiffs'
Motion. ECF Nos. 14 & 15. Shortly thereafter, Pure
Technologies sent Plaintiffs' counsel an Offer of
Judgment for each respective Plaintiff. ECF No. 20-1 at 2.
Simpson's Offer of Judgment was based on Pure
Technologies' records, which showed that during the
relevant time period of recovery (September 1, 2014 to
September 30, 2016), Simpson worked 1, 0009.3 overtime hours,
equaling $27, 932.64 in back wages and liquidated damages.
ECF No. 20-1 at 3. Pure Technologies also proffered an
additional, to-be-determined sum to cover reasonable
attorneys' fees. ECF No. 20-1 at 3. On December 4, 2017,
Simpson's counsel informed Pure Technologies that Simpson
would accept the Offer of Judgment. Accordingly, Simpson was
not deposed, and his case has not been included in Pure
Technologies' opposition to Plaintiffs' pending
motion to conditionally certify a
“similarly-situated” class under the FLSA.
Id.; see also ECF No. 18. On March 22,
2018, the parties filed the pending Joint Motion, seeking
Court approval of Pure Technologies' Offer of Judgment.
ECF No. 20.
Congress enacted the FLSA to shield workers from substandard
wages and working conditions arising from their unequal
bargaining power as compared to their employers, the
FLSA's requirements generally cannot be modified, waived,
or bargained away by contract or settlement. See Brooklyn
Saw Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945).
However, Court-approved settlement is an exception to this
rule where “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.,
DKLC-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)); see
also Acevado v. Phoenix Preservation Grp., Inc., No.
PJM-13-3726, 2015 WL 60041500, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 8, 2015).
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)). More particularly, 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 FLSA issues are
actually in dispute; (2) the fairness and reasonableness of
the settlement, and (3) the reasonableness of the
attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement.
Id. The Court addresses each factor in turn.
Bona Fide Dispute
determining whether a bona fide dispute exists as to the
defendant's liability, the court examines the pleadings
in the case and the representations in the proposed
settlement agreement. See Johnson v. Heartland Dental,
LLC, No. PJM-16-2154, 2017 WL 2266768, at *2 (D. Md. May
23, 2017); see also Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinckerhoff,
Inc., No. 08-CV-1310, 2009 WL 3094955, at *10 (E.D. Va.
Sept. 28, 2009). “A bona fide dispute exists when an
employee makes a claim that he or she is entitled to overtime
payment. To settle such a dispute, there must be a resolution
of the number of hours worked or the amount due.”
Lamascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *16.
Simpson alleged in the Complaint that from August 2014
through November 2016, Defendant misclassified him as a
salaried employee and improperly denied him overtime
compensation. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 68, 73, 83-84, 90)).
Pure Technologies, on the other hand, maintains that all
Plaintiffs were “exempt” employees under the FLSA
and the MWHL, and therefore not entitled to overtime wages.
See ECF Nos. 4 & 20-1. Accordingly, a bona fide
dispute exists as to whether Simpson is a covered employee,
implicating Pure Technologies' FLSA liability.
Lamascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *16; see
also ECF No. 20-1 at 5-6.
Fairness and Reasonableness of the Settlement
evaluate the fairness and reasonableness of a settlement
based on six factors: (1) the extent of discovery undertaken;
(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 plaintiff's counsel; (5) the opinions of
counsel; and (6) the probability of the plaintiff's
success on the merits, and the amount of ...