Moore v. Elwood Staffing Services Inc
MEMORANDUM OPINION, as set out, re joint motion for approval of settlement agreement. (Doc. 16). A separate order will be entered. Signed by Magistrate Judge John H England, III on 1/5/15. (CTS, )
2015 Jan-05 PM 12:40
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LAVONDA A. MOORE,
ELWOOD STAFFING SERVICES, INC.,
Case Number: 1:14-cv-00055-JHE
MEMORANDUM OPINION 1
Plaintiff Lavonda A. Moore (“Moore”), and Defendant Elwood Staffing Services, Inc.
(“Elwood”) jointly move for approval of their settlement agreement.
seek approval of the terms of their settlement agreement on Moore’s claims for unpaid overtime
pay as well as approval of separately negotiated attorneys’ fees and costs to be paid to Moore’s
counsel under the settlement.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court approves the
I. Background Facts
Moore filed this action on January 10, 2014.
She alleges claims for overtime
under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq.
On February 5, 2014,
Elwood answered the complaint, denying any noncompliance with the FLSA and asserting
various affirmative defenses. (Doc. 6).
After exchange of discovery and negotiations, the
parties reached a settlement, the terms of which are contained in the confidential Settlement
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73, the parties have voluntarily consented to have a United States Magistrate Judge
conduct any and all proceedings, including trial and the entry of final judgment. (Doc. 12).
Agreement and General Release (the “Agreement”).
The undersigned has reviewed the
Under the Agreement, Elwood has agreed to pay Moore a specified amount to settle her
claims for unpaid overtime.
Elwood has also separately agreed to pay an agreed-upon amount
of attorneys’ fees and costs to Moore’s counsel.
The parties have provided their settlement
agreement, (doc. 17, sealed), which the undersigned has reviewed.
The parties stipulate and
agree the terms set forth in the Agreement constitute a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona
fide dispute regarding whether Moore is entitled to any further compensation.
Subject to specific exceptions, the FLSA provides that employees are entitled to receive
overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular rate for all hours worked in excess of forty
per week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).
An employer who violates the FLSA is liable to its
employee for both unpaid overtime compensation and for an equal amount in liquidated
29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
In an action to recover unpaid overtime compensation, a court
is further required to award a prevailing plaintiff a reasonable attorneys’ fee and costs of the
Silva v. Miller, 307 Fed. App’x. 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).
Judicial review and approval of an FLSA settlement is necessary to give it final and
Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir.
Before approving a FLSA settlement, a court must scrutinize it to determine if it is “a
fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute.” Id.at 1354-55. If the settlement reflects
a reasonable compromise over issues that are actually in dispute, the Court may approve the
settlement “to promote the policy of encouraging settlement of litigation.” Id.at 1354. In
determining whether the settlement is fair and reasonable, the court should consider the following
1. the existence of fraud or collusions behind the settlement;
2. the complexity, expense, and likely duration of litigation;
3. the stage of the proceeding and the amount of discovery completed;
4. the probability of success on the merits;
5. the range of possible recovery; and
6. the opinions of counsel.
See Leverso v. South Trust Bank of Ala. Nat. Assoc., 18 F.3d 1527, 1531 n.6 (11th Cir. 1994). In
reviewing the terms of a proposed settlement, there is a strong presumption in favor of finding it is
fair. Cotton v. Hinton, 559 F.2d 1326, 1331 (5th Cir. 1977). 2
Here, there is no indication of fraud or collusion.
All parties were represented by
counsel, and Moore expresses her belief the amount to be paid under the settlement is a
substantial portion of or more than she could recover at trial, (doc. 16 at ¶ 6).
take into account the likelihood of success and the amount Moore might recover if she prevailed
on her claim.
Despite their disagreement over the inferences from the facts, the parties are in
agreement that continued litigation would not produce more economically beneficial results than
(Id. at ¶ 4). The confidential payments to Moore to settle her claims for
unpaid overtime compensation and liquidated damages are fair, reasonable, and adequate.
The complexity, expense, and expected duration of continued litigation also militate in
favor of this settlement.
The parties continue to disagree over the merits of Moore’s claim and
the amount of overtime compensation owed to her.
Even in settlement, Elwood does not admit
its liability on Moore’s claim, (id. at ¶ 3.d.), and both parties acknowledge the settlement is to
The decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, as that court
existed on September 30, 1981, handed down prior to the close of business that day, are binding
precedent in the Eleventh Circuit. Bonner v. City of Prichard, Ala., 661 F.2d 1206, 1207 (11th
avoid the expense of contested legal proceedings, (id. at ¶ 5).
The parties agree the outcome is
uncertain and if this matter were to be litigated to an award by jury, all parties would be required
to engage in costly litigation. (Id.).
Accordingly, this settlement is a reasonable means for all
parties to minimize future risks and litigation costs.
Based on counsel’s representations, there has been sufficient investigation and exchange
of information and documents to enable counsel to reasonably and adequately assess the claims
and defenses at issue.
(Id. at ¶ 2). Specifically, Moore has had the opportunity to review and
analyze Elwood’s payroll data.
(Id. at ¶ 4).
Before agreeing to the proposed settlement, the
parties had sufficient information to enable them to make an informed analysis and assessment of
The range of possible recovery also shows settlement is reasonable and adequate.
light of the costs of further litigation and the uncertainty and timing of any recovery, the
proposed settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute.
Additionally, the undersigned has reviewed the proposed, separately negotiated payment
of attorneys’ fees and costs and agrees it should be approved because it is reasonable.
Silva, 307 F. App’x at 351 (“FLSA requires judicial review of the reasonableness of counsel’s
legal fees to assure both that counsel is compensated adequately and that no conflict of interest
taints the amount the wronged employee recovers under a settlement agreement.”).
agreement regarding payment of Moore’s counsel’s fees and costs was reached separately and
without regard to the amount paid to Moore. Moore’s attorneys are compensated adequately
for the time and expense of drafting and filing pleadings, reviewing discovery, and conducting
settlement negotiations, and Moore’s claims were not compromised by any deduction of
attorney’s fees, costs, or expenses.
The Settlement Agreement and General Release is fair and reasonable under the
Accordingly, the settlement is due to be APPROVED and this matter
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
A separate order will be entered.
DONE this 5th day of January 2015.
JOHN H. ENGLAND, III
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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