United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
March 3, 2017, Plaintiff Roxana Rivera filed this action
against her former employer, Kantutas Restaurant, LLC and its
owner, Maria M. Peredo (“Defendant”) alleging
that Defendants failed to pay her minimum wages and overtime
compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, and the
Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code
Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401 to 3-430. Compl.
¶¶ 12-13, ECF No. 2. In addition, the Complaint
alleges that Defendants' failure to pay minimum wages and
overtime compensation also violated the Maryland Wage Payment
and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab.
& Empl. §§ 3-501 to 3-509. Id.
¶¶ 1, 15. On September 6, 2017, the parties jointly
moved for court approval of the settlement agreement they
have executed. Jt. Mot. & Mem., ECF No. 30. I find the
net amount Rivera is to receive to be fair and reasonable in
light of the facts of this case. Additionally, I approve the
attorneys' fee award under a lodestar calculation.
worked as a waitress at Kantutas Restaurant from
approximately July 6, 2013 to December 23, 2016. Compl.
¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that she typically worked
fifty-four hours per week. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff
alleges that she did not receive her pay in consistent
increments and that Defendants paid her below the federal and
state minimum wages during her tenure, was never paid
overtime, and that her employers failed to comply with the
tip credit requirements of the FLSA and MWHL. Id.
¶ 12-15. Plaintiff alleges that she was owed
approximately $44, 225.00 in uncompensated overtime and
minimum wages. Jt. Mot. & Mem. 5.
releases Defendants . . . from any and all claims . . .
whether known or unknown, that arose or may have arisen . . .
and acceptance of this Agreement and all provisions set forth
herein is in full accord and satisfaction of the claims set
forth in the Litigation and to any claims or damages asserted
directly, indirectly which could have been asserted, should
have been asserted, or could be asserted in the Litigation.
This Release is intentionally broad.
¶ 4, ECF No. 30-1. The Agreement provides for litigation
costs and attorneys' fees. Id. ¶ 1; Jt.
Mot. & Mem. 5. The parties have agreed to settle this
case for $35, 000 based on the following terms: Defendants
are to pay Rivera $19, 500 in wage-based and liquidated
damages; and Defendants are to pay Rivera's attorneys,
Zipin, Amster & Greenberg, LLC, $15, 500.00 in fees and
costs. Agreement ¶ 1.
FLSA Settlement Generally
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. To that
end, the statute's provisions are mandatory and generally
are 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., No.
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)).
the Fourth Circuit has not addressed the factors to be
considered in approving FLSA settlements, “district
courts in this circuit typically employ the considerations
set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in Lynn's Food
Stores.” Id. at *3 (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, ” which
includes findings with regard to (1) whether there are FLSA
issues actually in dispute, (2) the fairness and
reasonableness of the settlement in light of the relevant
factors from Rule 23, and (3) the reasonableness of the
attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement.
Id. (citing Lynn's Food Stores, 679
F.2d at 1355; Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinckerhoff,
Inc., No. 08-1310, 2009 WL 3094955, at *10 (E.D. Va.
Sept. 28, 2009); Lane v. Ko-Me, LLC, No.
DKC-10-2261, 2011 WL 3880427, at *2-3 (D. Md. Aug. 31,
2011)). 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 [her] rights under the statute.” Lynn's
Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354.
Bona Fide Dispute
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. See
Lomascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *16-17. The Joint Motion
and Memorandum makes clear that several issues are in
bona fide dispute. Most importantly, the parties
disagree about whether Rivera ever worked more than forty
hours in a work week, whether she was paid, and if Defendants
abided by the tip-credit requirements. Jt. Mot. & Mem. 2.
Fairness & ...