Harper v. Caroline's Country Store (JOINT ASSIGN)(MAG2)
OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 12/5/2017. (alm, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
CAROLINE’S COUNTRY STORE,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
This cause is before the court on a joint motion to
approve an agreement settling plaintiff Xanathe Harper’s
claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29
U.S.C. §§ 201-219, against defendant Caroline’s Country
The agreement further provides for the
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (FLSA) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331
Harper having personally testified
before the court and stated that she approves of the
settlement, and for the following reasons, the court will
approve the settlement agreement.
“Because the FLSA was enacted to protect workers from
the poor wages and long hours that can result from great
inequalities in bargaining power between employers and
except in two narrow circumstances, are generally not
contract or settlement.”
Stalnaker v. Novar Corp., 293
F. Supp. 2d 1260, 1262 (M.D. Ala. 2003) (Thompson, J.)
(citing Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706
The first exception requires supervision by the
Secretary of Labor under 29 U.S.C. § 216(c); the second
exception allows for settlement of claims for back wages
under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), if a court “scrutiniz[es] the
settlement for fairness,” and determines that it is a
“fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute
over FLSA provisions.”
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v.
United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353, 1355 (11th Cir.
“If a settlement in an employee FLSA suit does
reflect a reasonable compromise over issues, such as FLSA
coverage or computation of back wages, that are actually
in dispute[,] ... the district court [may] approve the
settlement in order to promote the policy of encouraging
settlement of litigation.”
Id. at 1354.
In this case, there are bona fide disputes over FLSA
overtime hours worked by Harper.
Harper’s receipt of
$ 6,400.00 for settling her FLSA claims provides her 100 %
separate $ 4,600.00 in attorney’s fees and a $ 410.00
reimbursement of the court filing fee, to be paid to
counsel for Harper.
After hearing from Harper personally
concludes that the settlement is a fair and reasonable
resolution of these bona fide disputes.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has further
counseled (albeit in an unpublished and therefore nonbinding opinion) that, in the contingency fee context, a
court reviewing an FLSA settlement should review “the
reasonableness of counsel’s legal fees to assure both
employee recovers under a settlement agreement.”
v. Miller, 307 F. App’x 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).
According to Silva, “[t]o turn a blind eye to an agreed
upon contingency fee in an amount greater than the amount
determined to be reasonable after judicial scrutiny runs
counter to FLSA's provisions for compensating the wronged
However, because the attorney’s fee in
the settlement agreement does not come out of Harper’s
recovery, which provides the full amount of her unpaid
wages and liquidated damages, the court need not assess
the reasonableness of this fee.
The court notes that Harper has no non-FLSA claims.
There is therefore no evidence of unfair and improper
“use [of] an FLSA claim (a matter arising from the
employer's failing to comply with the FLSA) to leverage
a release from liability unconnected to the FLSA.”
v. Allstate Beverage Co., Inc., 821 F. Supp. 2d 1274,
1284 (M.D. Ala. 2011) (Thompson, J.).
An appropriate judgment granting the parties’ joint
dismissing this case in full will be entered.
DONE, this the 5th day of December, 2017.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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