SMUSZ v. HILLSIDE CEMETARY ASSOCIATION et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 16 Motion for Settlement approval. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 2/19/15. (gh, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 2:14-cv-01882 (WJM)
OPINION & ORDER
HILLSIDE CEMETARY ASSOCIATION
and CATHY MUNRO, Individually,
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on an unopposed joint motion to approve
a settlement agreement. In March 2014, Plaintiff Josef Smusz filed this action against
Defendants Hillside Cemetery Association and Cathy Munro. The Complaint alleges
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA”), the
New Jersey Wage and Hours Laws (“NJWHL”), and the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. (“NJLAD”). Specifically, Smusz – who was
previously employed at Defendant Hillside Cemetery Association – alleges that
Defendants terminated him because of his Polish national origin in violation of the NJLAD.
He further alleges that Defendants violated the FLSA and the NJWHL by failing to pay
him wages for hours he worked at the cemetery. In response, Defendants contend that
Smusz’s termination had nothing to do with his national origin and instead was due to
performance issues. They further contend that their payroll records reveal that Smusz was
not undercompensated for his work at the cemetery.
After engaging in some written discovery, the parties reached a settlement
agreement (hereinafter, “the Agreement”). The Agreement provides that Smusz will
receive a total amount of $52,500, with $13,500 of that sum accounting for attorney’s fees.
In return, Smusz has agreed to release any and all claims against Defendants that predate
the Agreement. (Mt. to Approve, Ex. B.)
The parties have now filed a joint motion to approve the Agreement. Many courts
have held that in an FLSA case, parties to a settlement agreement must submit their
agreement to the court for approval. See, e.g., Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. U.S.
Dep’t of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir. 1982); Bettger v. Crossmark, Inc., No.
1:13-cv-2030, 2015 WL 279754, *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 22, 2015); Morales v. PepsiCo., Inc., No.
11-cv-6275, 2012 WL 870752, *1 (D.N.J. Mar. 14, 2012). A court should approve a
settlement agreement if it is fair and resolves a bona fide dispute. See, e.g, Bredbenner v.
Liberty Travel, Inc., No. 09-905, 2011 WL 1344745, *18 (D.N.J. Apr. 8, 2011). When
analyzing a settlement agreement, a court must be mindful of the strong public policy in
favor of settlements. See, e.g., Farris v. JC Penney Co., Inc., 176 F.3d 706, 711 (3d Cir.
1999) (citations omitted).
The Court has reviewed the terms of the Agreement and concludes that the
Agreement presents a fair resolution of a bona fide dispute. This case presents a bona fide
dispute because there are a number of contested factual issues, including whether
Defendants terminated Smusz on the basis of his national origin and whether Smusz was
undercompensated for the work her performed at the cemetery. Moreover, these factual
disputes have created uncertainties for both parties, which has led them to seek a middle
ground by entering into a settlement agreement. Mindful of these considerations, the Court
has reviewed the terms of the Agreement concludes that the Agreement is fair and
For the foregoing reasons and for good cause shown;
IT IS on this 19th day of February 2015, hereby,
ORDERED that the parties’ joint motion to approve the Agreement is
GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that this case is hereby dismissed with prejudice.
/s/ William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
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