Saint-Preux v. Kiddies Kollege Christian Center, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 19 Joint Motion to Approve Settlement and dismissing 6 Plaintiff's Amended Complaint with prejudice. Signed by Judge Paul W. Grimm on 6/20/2017. (kns, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND,
Civil Case No.: PWG-16-3276
KIDDIES KOLLEGE CHRISTIAN
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On September 28,2016, Plaintiff Kristan Saint-Preux filed this action against Defendant
Kiddies Kollege Christian Center, Inc. ("Kiddies Kollege") alleging that Kiddies Kollege failed
to pay her overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C.
and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & EmpI.
99 3-401 to -431. Am. CompI. ~ 1, ECF NO.6. In addition, the Amended Complaint alleges that
Kiddies Kollege's failure to pay overtime compensation violated the Maryland Wage Payment
and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & EmpI. 993-501 to -509. Am. CompI.
~ 1. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of
her disability and failed to engage in the interactive process to accommodate
the same in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. 9 12101-12213,
retaliated against her for pursuing her rights under the federal and state statutes.
On April 25, 2017, the Parties jointly moved for court approval of a settlement
agreement that they have executed and filed along with a Memorandum
in support of their
Jt. Mot., ECF No. 19; Jt. Mem., ECF No. 22. I find the net amount Saint-Preux is to
receive to be fair and reasonable in light of the facts of this case.
Saint-Preux worked as a teacher's aide at Kiddies Kollege from roughly October 2014
until her termination on October 3, 2016.
Am. CompI. ~~ 24, 33, 69.
Plaintiff alleges that
Kiddies Kollege paid her a normal hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.
See id. ~ 38. From her hiring, through August 15,2015, Saint-Preux was paid at a regular rate
of nine dollars ($9.00) per hour. Id. ~ 36. From August 16,2015 to her termination, Saint-Preux
was paid at a regular rate often dollars ($10.00) per hour. Id. ~ 37. After Saint-Preux filed her
Complaint on September 28,2016, Defendant direct deposited $918.27 into Saint-Preux's bank
account, and issued a pay statement for a gross payment for the same amount for 171 hours of
unpaid overtime. Jt. Mot. ~ 3.
The Settlement Agreement "releases Defendant ...
from all manner of actions ...
arose out of ... Plaintiff's employment and/or the Litigation prior to the date of this Agreement
" and provides Saint-Preux with $918.27 in liquidated damages pursuant to the FLSA's
Agreement ~~ 1, 5, ECF No. 19-1.
Although Kiddies Kollege denies
discrimination and retaliation allegations, the proposed settlement also provides
$4,081.73 for payment of attorneys' fees and costs associated with the non-FLSA claims.
Mot. ~ 10.
Plaintiff is not seeking attorney's
settlement. Jt. Mot. ~ 11.
a. FLSA Settlement Generally
fees for Plaintiff's
overtime claims in this
Congress enacted the FLSA to protect workers from the poor wages and long hours that
can result from significant inequalities in bargaining power between employers and employees.
To that end, the statute's provisions are mandatory and generally are not subject to bargaining,
waiver, or modification by contract or settlement.
697, 706 (1945).
See Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. 0 'Neil, 324 U.S.
Court-approved settlement is an exception to that rule, "provided that the
settlement reflects a 'reasonable compromise of disputed issues' rather than 'a mere waiver of
statutory rights brought about by an employer's overreaching.'"
Saman v. LBDP, Inc., No.
DKC-12-1083, 2013 WL 2949047, at *2 (D. Md. June 13,2013) (quoting Lynn's Food Stores,
Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354 (1Ith Cir. 1982)). Although the Fourth Circuit has not
addressed the factors to be considered in approving FLSA settlements, "district courts in this
circuit typically employ the considerations set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in Lynn's Food
Stores." Id. at *3 (citing Hoffman v. First Student, Inc., No. WDQ-06-1882, 2010 WL 1176641,
at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2010); Lopez v. NTL LLC, 748 F. Supp. 2d 471, 478 (D. Md. 2010)). The
settlement must "reflect a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA
provisions," which includes findings with regard to (1) whether there are FLSA issues actually in
dispute, (2) the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement in light of the relevant factors from
Rule 23, and (3) the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement.
(citing Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355; Lomascolo v. Parsons BrinckerhojJ, Inc., No. 081310,2009 WL 3094955, at *10 (E.D. Va. Sept. 28, 2009); Lane v. Ko-Me, LLC, No. DKC-102261,2011
WL 3880427, at *2-3 (D. Md. Aug. 31, 2011)). These factors are most likely to be
satisfied where there is an "assurance
of an adversarial
and the employee
"represented by an attorney who can protect [his] rights under the statute." Lynn's Food Stores,
679 F.2d at 1354. Lynn's Food Stores, only requires "compromises of FLSA back wage or
liquidated damages claims" to be approved by the District Court in determining whether a
settlement is fair and reasonable, the Court does not need to review parties' settlements of other
FLSA claims that do not relate to back payor liquidated damages.
See id. at 1355; Galvez v.
Americlean Servs. Corp., No. 1:11CV1351 (JCC/TCB), 2012 WL 2522814, at *4 n.4 (E.D. Va.
June 29, 2012) ("The Court need not engage in an in-depth review of the parties' settlement of
[an FLSA] retaliation claim, provided its terms do not contaminate the settlement of claims
relating to unpaid overtime and unpaid wages.").
b. Bona Fide Dispute
In deciding whether a bona fide dispute exists as to a defendant's
liability under the
FLSA, courts examine the pleadings in the case, along with the representations and recitals in 'the
proposed settlement agreement.
See Lomascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *16-17.
agree that a bona fide dispute exists as to whether Plaintiff is entitled to liquidated (i.e., double)
damages under the FLSA in light of Defendant's assertion of good faith. Jt. Mem. 2. The FLSA
permits Plaintiffs to seek liquidated damages for unpaid overtime wages.
See 29 U.S.C.
But courts have discretion to decline to award liquidated damages where an employer
demonstrates that it committed an FLSA violation in good faith.
Randolph v. PowerComm
Const., Inc., No. GJH-13-1696, 2014 WL 4981439, at *3 (D. Md. Oct. 1,2014).
Thus, a bona
fide dispute exists as to whether Saint-Preux is entitled to any enhanced damages. Pl.'s Mem. 2.
c. Fairness & Reasonableness
In evaluating the fairness and reasonableness of this settlement, I must consider:
(l) the extent of discovery that has
including the complexity, expense
absence of fraud or collusion in the
have represented the plaintiff; (5)
taken place; (2) the stage of the proceedings,
and likely duration of the litigation; (3) the
settlement; (4) the experience of counsel who
the opinions of class counsel ... ; and (6) the
probability of plaintiffl's] success on the merits and the amount of the settlement
in relation to the potential recovery.
Lomascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *1O.
First, after the Court issued a Scheduling Order in the case, Plaintiff requested all
timesheets and timekeeping records from Defendant.
"Upon review of the timekeeping records
and Defendant's counsel agree(d] that Plaintiff is not owed more than the
$918.27 payment made by Defendant," obviating the need for additional discovery. Pl.'s Mem.
2. Second, the parties negotiated the Settlement Agreement at an early stage in the litigation in
order to avoid further costs associated with deposing witnesses and further attorney's fees. Idat
With regard to the third factor, the parties state that they engaged in arms-length and
I accept these
representations and am satisfied that no fraud or collusion contributed the parties' decision to
settle the claims. Id at 3-4. Additionally, the parties have established counsel's experience with
FLSA cases. Id at 4. As for the fifth factor, it is not relevant here, as it pertains to class actions.
See Lomascolo, 2009 WL 3094955, at *10.
With regard to the sixth factor, the settlement provides for $918.27 in liquidated
Jt. Mem. 2.
But, given Kiddies Kollege's assertion of "good faith," it is possible
that the Court might exercise its discretion to decline to award liquidated damages if Saint-Preux
pursued the litigation further.
Randolph, 2014 WL 4981439, at *3. Thus, the compromise
avoids the possibility that Saint-Preux might be unable to prove her entitlement to anything
beyond the overtime wages that Kiddies Kollege has already paid her should she persist in
litigating the case.
In addition, the Settlement Agreement contains a general release of claims beyond those
specified in the Complaint.
Agreement ~ 3. A general release of this sort can render settlement
See, e.g., Moreno v. Regions Bank, 729 F. Supp. 2d 1346, 1352 (M.D.
that "a pervasive
in an FLSA
uncompensated, unevaluated, and unfair benefit on the employer" that "fails judicial scrutiny");
v. Franklin Am. Mortg. Co., No. 10-5243,2012 WL 6629608, at *3 (N.D. Cal.
Dec. 19, 2012).
But, if the employee is compensated reasonably for the release executed, the
settlement can be accepted, and I am not required to evaluate the reasonableness
settlement as to the non-FLSA claims. See Saman, 2013 WL 2949047, at *5 (citing Robertson v.
Ther-Rx Corp., No. 09-1010-MHT, 2011 WL 1810193, at *2 (M.D. Ala. May 12,2011)); Bright
v. Mental Health Res. Ctr., Inc., No. 09-1010, 2012 WL 868804, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 14,
In this case, Saint-Preux is receiving 100% of her claim for unpaid overtime and an
equal sum in liquidated damages, this percentage fairly compensates her for the release executed.
Agreement ~ 5; see also Duprey, F. Supp. 3d at 410 (general release did not render a settlement
unfair when the plaintiff "was compensated for almost eighty percent of his back pay ... plus an
$2,250 in liquidated
I find the settlement
d. Attorneys' Fees
The settlement discussions resulted in an agreement that Defendant would not pay
attorney's fees associated with Plaintiffs
FLSA claim, which Defendant would be liable for if
Plaintiff successfully pursued her claim to a judgement.
Jt.Mem. 2-3. The
Settlement Agreement allocates the remaining $4,081.73 of the settlement payment as Plaintiffs
attorney's fees and costs related to her non-FLSA claims, which do not require Court approval.
Jt. Mem. 3.; See Amaya v. Young & Chang, Inc., No. PWG-14-749, 2014 WL 3671569, at *3 (D.
Md. July 22, 2014).
Accordingly, the reasonableness inquiry is restricted to the settlement
amount related to Plaintiff s FLSA claim, and no further inquiry is necessary into the adequacy
of the agreed-upon fees.
For the reasons explained above, the net amount proposed to resolve Saint-Preux's claims
provides a fair and reasonable compromise as to the bona fide dispute of FLSA liability.
Joint Motion to Approve Settlement is granted, and all counts in the Amended Complaint are
dismissed with prejudice.
Accordingly, it is this 20th day of June, 2017, hereby ORDERED that:
1. The Joint Motion to Approve Settlement, ECF No. 19, IS GRANTED;
2. Plaintiffs Amended Complaint, ECF NO.6, IS DISMISSED with prejudice;
3. The Clerk is DIRECTED to CLOSE THE CASE.
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?