Harper v. Caroline's Country Store (JOINT ASSIGN)(MAG2)

Filing 13

OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 12/5/2017. (alm, )

Download PDF
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION XANATHE HARPER, Plaintiff, v. CAROLINE’S COUNTRY STORE, LLC, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:17cv612-MHT (WO) OPINION 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 Store, LLC. The agreement further provides for the dismissal this of lawsuit. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (FLSA) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question). 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 employees, the FLSA’s provisions are mandatory and, except in two narrow circumstances, are generally not subject to bargaining, contract or settlement.” waiver, or modification by 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 (1945)). 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. 1982). “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 2 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 provisions, namely FLSA coverage overtime hours worked by Harper. and the amount of Harper’s receipt of $ 6,400.00 for settling her FLSA claims provides her 100 % of her ($ $ unpaid 3,200.00) 3,200.00). minimum and 100 The % wage in and overtime liquidated agreement further damages provides wages (also for a 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. and reviewing the After hearing from Harper personally settlement agreement, the court 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 3 reasonableness of counsel’s legal fees to assure both that counsel conflict of is compensated interest taints adequately the amount and that the no wronged employee recovers under a settlement agreement.” Silva 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 employee.” Id. 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.” 4 Hogan v. Allstate Beverage Co., Inc., 821 F. Supp. 2d 1274, 1284 (M.D. Ala. 2011) (Thompson, J.). An appropriate judgment granting the parties’ joint motion to approve settlement of the FLSA claim and dismissing this case in full will be entered. DONE, this the 5th day of December, 2017. /s/ Myron H. Thompson UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?