United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE, JUDGE
Maria Rosa Cornejo Cerritos and Maria Zelaya have brought
suit against pro se Defendants 4806 Rugby Avenue LLC, doing
business as Yamas Mediterranean Grill ("Yamas
Grill"), and its owner, Tony George Alexis, alleging
violations of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law
("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§
3-401 et seq., the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§
3-501 et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, ef seq.
Plaintiffs and Defendants have now reached a settlement and
ask for the Court to approve the settlement and dismiss with
prejudice all claims in the Complaint. For the reasons that
follow, the Court GRANTS the Consent Motion to Approve
Settlement, ECF No. 13, and DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all
counts of the Complaint, ECF No. 1, as to both Defendants.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Grill is a corporate entity owned by Defendant Alexis. ECF
No. 1 ¶¶ 8-9. Until recently, Yamas Grill was
functioning as a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland. Plaintiff
Cornejo Cerritos worked as a kitchen hand at Yamas Grill from
approximately January 12, 2015 until it closed in January
2018. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff Zelaya was also a
kitchen hand for Yamas Grill and worked there from
approximately July 11, 2017, until January 2018. Id.
¶ 12. Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on December 20, 2017.
alleging that Defendants failed to pay them minimum wage or
overtime wages. Id. ¶¶ 15-25. Moreover,
they allege, that since approximately October 15, 2017,
Defendants failed to pay them anything at all for hours
worked. Id. ¶ 26.
Defendants failed to timely answer the Complaint, they
eventually filed a Motion for Hearing and a Reasonable Time
for Defendants to Hire an Attorney. ECF No. 7. In their
Motion, Defendants disputed the pending allegations, noting
that the restaurant went out of business due to construction
around the property and that Plaintiffs were problem
employees. Id. The Court granted Defendants'
request for additional time to find an attorney. ECF No. 9.
However, on May 1, 2018, before Defendants had obtained an
attorney or filed responsive pleadings, the parties filed a
Joint Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice. ECF No. 10.
2, 2018, the Court, in a Memorandum Order, directed the
parties to submit a joint motion for approval consistent with
this Court's practice in FLSA cases. ECF Nos. 11, 12.
That Motion is now before the Court.
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., 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)).
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. Id.
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 settlement agreement. See
Lomascolo v. Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc., et al. No.
L08CV1310 (AJT/JFA), 2009 WL 3094955 at *16-17 (E.D. Va.
Sept. 28, 2009).
case, the parties dispute the individual liability of
Defendant Alexis. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that they
often worked more than 40 hours a week, they were underpaid,
and they were not paid overtime. ECF No. 1 ¶¶
19-25. Defendants deny these facts. In his Motion for
Reasonable Time to Find an Attorney, Defendant Alexis asserts
that the restaurant's business was slow and that he had
to cut back on payroll. ECF No. 7 ¶ 7. According to
Defendant Alexis, he offered Plaintiffs a lighter work
schedule, which they refused. Id. ¶¶ 7-8.
parties also dispute the total No. of hours Plaintiff Zelaya
worked and her status as an employee of Yamas Grill. See ECF
No. 7 ¶ 11.
parties thus stipulate, and the Court finds, that a bona fide
dispute exists as to Defendants' liability under the
FLSA, the resolution of which would ...