Thompson et al v. DCI Biologicals Little Rock LLC et al
ORDER informing that if no party notifies the Court by 16 September 2014 that unsealing the letter and brief and the settlement agreement would mean there is no settlement, the Court will unseal those documents and enter a Judgment dismissing the case with prejudice. The billing records, which contain privileged material and work product, will remain sealed. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 9/9/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SHERRI THOMPSON, individually and
on behalf of others similarly situated; and
LASHAWN MORGAN, individually and
on behalf of others similarly situated
DCI Biologicals Little Rock LLC; and
DCI Biologicals Inc.
Along with the proposed settlement and billing records from
plaintiffs' counsel, the parties submitted a letter brief jointly requesting that
their settlement be kept confidential and sealed. They point out that
arbitration is often private, with the attendant benefits of resolving a dispute
behind closed doors. And they say that this Fair Labor Standards
Act/ Arkansas Minimum Wage Act dispute would have been handled by
arbitration in private but for plaintiffs filing suit notwithstanding the parties'
arbitration agreement. This last point may well be correct as a practical
matter. The parties' arbitration agreement, though, is silent about
confidentiality. And even if it had specified a private proceeding, the Court
is not sure that a settlement agreement resolving a FLSA arbital proceeding
would be enforceable at law absent a further step.
2. The Court hasn't found any authority on this seeming collision
between the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Federal Arbitration Act. The
parties cite none. This much is clear: in general, employers and employees
can't make enforceable agreements settling wage disputes without approval
by a federal court or supervision by the Department of Labor. Lynn's Food
Stores v. U.S., 679 F.2d 1350,1353 (11th Cir. 1982); Walton v. United Consumers
Club, Inc., 786 F.2d 303,304-06 (7th Cir. 1986); Brown v. L & P Industries, LLC,
No. 5:04-cv-379-JLH, NQ 47 at p. 14; but see Martin v. Spring Break '83
Productions, L.L.C., 688 F.3d 247, 253-56 (5th Cir. 2012) "The Fair Labor
Standards Act is designed to prevent consenting adults from transacting
about minimum wages and overtime pay." Walton, 786 F.2d at 306.
Notwithstanding the increasing judicial solicitude for arbitration, e.g., StoltNielsen S.A. v. Animalfeeds International Corp., 559 U.S. 662 (2010), the
confidentiality-related benefits of that alternative forum, and the parties' clear
joint preference at this point, the better-reasoned FLSA precedent controls.
3. On the merits, apart from the confidentiality, the parties' agreement
imminently fair, reasonable, and adequate. In re Flight Transportation
- - --
Securities Litigation, 730 F.2d 1128, 1135 (8th Cir. 1984). Each named plaintiff
and joining employee appears to be made whole, while the attorney's fees are
appropriately modest. The Court approves the settlement conditioned on the
parties' consenting to their agreement being unsealed. There's nothing
untoward about plaintiffs and plaintiffs' counsel promising, as part of the
deal, not to spread the word about the settlement. The problem comes in the
confidentiality agreement involving the Court's work.
4. Absent compelling circumstances, this Court should do its business
on the public record. De lock v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc, No. 4:11-cv520-DPM, NQ 70 at 3-4; Miles v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc., 799 F. Supp. 2d 618,
621-625 (E. D. Va. 2011). No such circumstances appear of record. This case is
the Court's business because both sides sought judicial relief- the plaintiffs
on the merits and the defendants on arbitration.
5. Unless one of the parties notifies the Court by 16 September 2014 that
unsealing the letter brief and the settlement agreement would mean there is
no settlement, the Court will unseal those documents and enter a Judgment
dismissing the case with prejudice. The billing records, which contain
privileged material and work product, will remain sealed.
D.P. Marshall Jr. 7
United States District Judge
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