Dunbar v. Wolf Bay Lodge, Inc. et al
ORDER GRANTING parties' 21 Joint MOTION to Approve Settlement Agreement as set out. Settlement is APPROVED, & the case is DISMISSED w/prejudice as set out. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 10/22/2015. (tot)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
WOLF BAY LODGE, INC., and
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-00265-CG-M
This matter is before the Court on the Joint Motion for Court Approval of
Settlement (Doc. 21) filed on September 30, 2015. For the reasons set forth herein,
the Court finds that the motion is due to be GRANTED. The settlement agreement
is APPROVED, and the case is hereby DISMISSED with prejudice.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Julia Dunbar (“Plaintiff”) filed suit on May 21, 2015, against Wolf Bay Lodge,
Inc. and Charlene Haber (“Defendants”), in order “to recover unpaid minimum
wages and overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” (Doc. 1, p.
1). Plaintiff argues that Defendants regularly failed to pay her the federal minimum
wage. Id. at 7. Plaintiff claims that she was not paid overtime that was due to her
as an hourly employee. Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants engaged in
deceptive practices to deprive her of payment for time worked. Id. at 8. Plaintiff
alleges that she was not compensated for her attendance at employee meetings,
with an average of three to four meetings occurring a year for a duration of
approximately one to two hours each. Id. at 6. She also claims that Defendants
deducted money from her paycheck “for the replacement of missing/stolen
silverware, despite the Plaintiff’s lack of liability for same.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff
levies a claim of retaliatory discharge.1 Id. at 13.
Defendants completely deny Plaintiff’s allegations. (Doc. 21, p. 2). However,
Defendants “have agreed to pay Plaintiff the full amount of compensation to which
she alleges she is entitled, as well as an equal amount for claimed liquidated
damages,” instead of “spend[ing] a disproportionate amount of time and money
litigating the amount claimed by Plaintiff.” Id. The parties assert that “Plaintiff is
receiving the full amount of unpaid compensation, liquidated damages, costs and
attorneys’ fees that Plaintiff believes she can recover.” Id. at 4. They further aver
that “the settlement reached between them represents a ‘fair and reasonable’
resolution of Plaintiff’s FLSA claim.” Id.
II. STATEMENT OF THE LAW
The Fair Labor Standards Act provides that an employer found in violation of
its provisions “shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of
their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case
1 The parties assert that “the Court’s approval is not necessary for settlement of
[this] claim,” although the parties go on to provide details of the settlement. (Doc.
21, p. 2, n.1). Some courts agree, holding that court approval of a settlement of a
retaliatory discharge claim under the FLSA is not required. See, e.g., Hernandez v.
Iron Container, LLC, No. 13-22170-CIV, 2014 WL 633848, at *1-2 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 18,
2014) (collecting cases). Only when the settlement of this claim affects the fairness
of the settlement of the wage claims will the court review the retaliatory discharge
claim for fairness. Id. at *1. The Court finds these cases persuasive. As the Court
holds below, the settlement of the wage claims is reasonable and fair, and thus the
Court need not review the settlement of the retaliatory discharge claim.
may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” 29 U.S.C. § 216
(2012). An oft-cited Eleventh Circuit case provides direction to district courts when
analyzing FLSA settlements. See Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982). The Act “was enacted for the purpose of protecting
workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours.” Id. at 1352. The
provisions of the FLSA are mandatory and “not subject to negotiation or bargaining
between employers and employees.” Id. The court held that there were two ways
that settlements of FLSA wage claims could be approved: (1) through supervision by
the Secretary of Labor, or (2) by stipulated judgment entered by a district court
“after scrutinizing the settlement for fairness.” Id. at 1352-53. The court found that
settlements are more favorable when the employees are represented by counsel,
recognizing that such a settlement “is more likely to reflect a reasonable
compromise of disputed issues than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about
by an employer’s overreaching.” Id. at 1354. A settlement agreement will be
approved when the district court “has determined that a settlement proposed by an
employer and employees, in a suit brought by the employees under the FLSA, is a
fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.” Id. at
The Court must also determine whether the attorney’s fees portion of the
settlement affects the fairness of the settlement as a whole. In an unpublished
opinion, the Eleventh Circuit found that the “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.” Silva v. Miller, 307 F. App’x 349, 351 (11th
III. REVIEW OF THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
The settlement provides Plaintiff with $1,086.30 for alleged unpaid wages,
along with an additional $1,086.30 for alleged liquidated damages for a total of
$2,172.60. (Doc. 21, p. 2). The settlement also awards Plaintiff $7,000 in attorney’s
fees and $500 in costs. Id. The parties demonstrate the use of a single calculation to
arrive at $1,086.30, and the Court is uncertain whether the arithmetic encompasses
both the minimum wage and overtime claims.2 However, the Court is comforted by
the fact that Plaintiff was represented by counsel who reviewed records provided by
Defendants, and the parties stipulate that the settlement provides Plaintiff with
“the full amount of compensation to which she alleges she is entitled, as well as an
equal amount for claimed liquidated damages.” Id. Thus, the Court finds that the
proposed payment is fair and reasonable under the FLSA.
For attorney’s fees, the Court typically will determine the “lodestar” figure,
which is composed of “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983). However, the Court has recognized that “a lodestar analysis is not always
2 It is important to note that, while the motion states that Plaintiff claims she was
not compensated for an average of six hours per week, the equation reflects that a
figure of five hours per week was used to calculate the wage claim. (Doc. 21, p. 2).
However, the resulting amount indicates that the proper number of six hours per
week was used to arrive at the total. Id.
required.” Lyons v. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, FSC Franchise Co., Civ. Action No. 15-0170CG-N, 2015 WL 5602452, at *2 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 23, 2015). When “the fee [is]
negotiated separately and without regard to the amount paid to the Plaintiff,” the
Court may forego the lodestar analysis. Id. at *3. Here, the parties assert that they
“separately negotiated Plaintiff’s counsel’s attorney’s fees.” (Doc. 21, p. 2). Further,
it is apparent that the fees did not affect Plaintiff’s recovery because Plaintiff
recovered the entirety of her claim, as discussed above. Therefore, the Court finds
that the attorney’s fees do not affect the fairness and reasonableness of the
The Court finds that the settlement is reasonable and fair. Therefore, the
parties’ joint motion to approve settlement is GRANTED, the settlement
agreement is APPROVED, and the case is DISMISSED with prejudice.
DONE and ORDERED this 22nd day of October, 2015.!
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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