Fernandez v. Airport Ground Services and Leasing LLC

Filing 35

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, For the foregoing reasons, the settlement agreement is approved. (Granting 34 Motion for Settlement) The papers submitted by the parties reflect their Rule 41(a) stipulated dismissal of this action so that no additional filin g will be required. This action is discontinued without cost and with prejudice, except as to the right to reopen the action if the settlement is not consummated. The Clerk is directed to close this case. (Ordered by Judge Eric N. Vitaliano on 5/29/2017) c/m (Galeano, Sonia)

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\~~9\\ ~of~rlr~~~ UN ITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK er ooum E o t: f. ,* nw 3 i ,. ------------------------------------------------- x GEURIS FERNANDEZ, 2011 * ·l3R00KLYN 0FFJG£ Plaintiff, MEMORANDUM & ORDER -against15-CV-7330 (ENV) (LB) AIRPORT GROUND SERVICES AND : LEASING LLC, Defendant. ------------------------------------------------- x VT TALIANO , D.J. Geuri s Fernandez commenced this action in 20 15 against his former emp loyer, Airport Ground Services and Leasing LLC ("AGS"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and violations of New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), along with charges of national origin and race discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") and federal law, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See Dkt. No. I . Presently before the Court is a motion seeking approval of the settlement agreement jointly submitted by the parties, Dkt. No. 34-1, reso lving all of the pla intiffs claims arising out of his fo rmer employment with AGS fo r $10,000. See also Dkt. No. 34 ("Mot. fo r Approval"). It is the Court' s understanding that there are no other claims pending and that all claims brought in plaintiff's December 24, 2015 complaint have been disposed of. For the reasons set forth below, the motion requesting approval of the settlement agreement is granted. Discussion In most circumstances, under Rule 41 (a)( I )(A)(i i), litigants do not need a court order to d ismiss, with the consent of all parties, a plaintiff s claims against a defendant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(l)(A)(ii). The Second Circuit has held, however, that "Rule 4l(a)(l)(A)(ii) stipullted I dismissals settling FLSA claims with prejudice require the approval of the district court or the [Department of Labor] to take effect." Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F.3d 199, 206 (2d Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 824, 193 L. Ed. 2d 718 (2016). Although ChJkY I I f clearly fabricated a new court approval requirement, it left the contours and protocols of the approval process to common law development. See id. at 206-07. District courts, responding o the assignment, have typically imported the multifactor standard utilized in Wolinsky v. I 1 Scholastic Inc, 900 F. Supp. 2d 332, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), to evaluate whether an FLSA ~age I and hour settlement was "fair and reasonable." See, e.g., Cortes v. New Creators, Inc., Nof 15 I Civ. 5680 (PAE), 2016 WL 3455383, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 20, 2016); Beckert v. Rubinov, No. 15 Civ. 1951(PAE),2015 WL 6503832, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2015) (citing Velasquez v. 1 SAFl-G, Inc., No. Civ. 3068 (WHP), 2015 WL 5915843, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 7, 2015)). Wit I this guidance, "[i]n determining whether [a] proposed settlement is fair and reasonable, a ~ou . consider[s] the totality of circumstances, including but not limited to the following factorf: (1) the plaintiffs range of possible recovery; (2) the extent to which 'the settlement will enab~e thf I parties to avoid anticipated burdens and expenses in establishing their respective claims and I defenses'; (3) the seriousness of the litigation risks faced by the parties; (4) whether 'the i ! settlement agreement is the product of arm's-length bargaining between experienced coun~el';I and (5) the possibility of fraud or collusion." Wolinsky, 900 F. Supp. 2d at 335 (quoting Medliy v. Am. Cancer Soc., No. 10 Civ. 3214 (BSJ), 2010 WL 3000028, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 23, 2010)). The proposed Femandez settlement agreement passes muster under the Wolinksy standard. Tellingly, the settlement agreement is the product of almost one-and-a-half yea~s o 1 2 active litigation. Discovery resulted in the production by AGS of the relevant timekeeping r· records and the depositions of AGS's manager, David Choi, and of Fernandez. See Dkt. 3 at 2. With credit to the vigorous prosecution and defense of the claims, both sides signaled the, r I readiness to pursue motions for summary judgment when, in January 2017' they agreed to sub it the case and its full record to mediation. See Dkt. Nos. 30, 33; see also 11/22/2016 Dkt. Eltri s. Plaintiff has since.reported that "the parties were assisted in reaching this agreement by an experienced mediator assigned through the Eastern District Mediation services." Mot. for Approval at 1. In short, the record indicates persuasively that this settlement agreement w s demonstrably the product of arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel on boJ sid s; I I nothing in the record suggests fraud or collusion or bad faith. I The proposed settlement agreement, obviously, cuts litigation expenses by avoiding the substantial expenditures that further litigation would demand. Lastly, but significantly, thJre i no over-reaching in the release terms of the settlement agreement. The release is tethered jo liability for charges or claims "arising from the [FLSA, NYLL, and related regulations]", IDkt. I I I No. 34-1 § 2(c), and the language provides no release from any potential claims by Fernandez i I I "that have no relationship whatsoever to [claims arising out of the] wage-and-hour [disputf ][,]f' Cheeks, 796 F.3d at 206 (citation omitted). On balance, the settlement agreement provide]! a and reasonable resolution of Fernandez's employment grievances arising out of his past employment with AGS. 3 f~r /S/ USDJ ERIC N. VITALIANO

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