Starnes v. Advanced Call Center Technologies, LLC (TV3)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. The parties SHALL file a supplemental brief addressing these issues within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this order and the Court will DEFER consideration of the pending motions [Docs. 18, 19] until it reviews the supplemental filing(s). Signed by Chief District Judge Thomas A Varlan on 4/12/17. (JBR)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ADVANCED CALL CENTER
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This civil matter is before the Court on the parties’ Joint Motion to Approve
Parties’ Settlement of Wage Claims and Dismissal With Prejudice [Doc. 18], and
defendant’s Unopposed Motion for Leave to File Document Under Seal [Doc. 19]. The
parties move the Court to review and approve their confidential settlement agreement
[Doc. 20] and to dismiss this action with prejudice. Defendant also moves the Court to
seal the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement resolves plaintiff’s claims against defendant arising
under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201–19 (“FLSA”), and under a related
state law breach of contract claim. The FLSA’s provisions are mandatory and, except in
two narrow circumstances, are generally not subject to bargaining, waiver, or
modification by contract or settlement. Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O’Neil, 324 U.S. 697,
706 (1945). The circumstance applicable here occurs when an employee brings a private
action for back wages under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), the employee and employer present a
proposed settlement to the district court, and the district court reviews the proposed
settlement, determines that it involves the resolution of a bona-fide dispute and is fair and
reasonable, and enters it as a stipulated judgment.
See Dillworth v. Case Farms
Processing, Inc., No. 5:08-CV-1694, 2010 WL 776933, at *5–6 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 8,
2010); Crawford v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty. Gov’t, No. 06-299-JBC, 2008 WL
4724499, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 23, 2008).
Here, the parties’ settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause and the
parties submit that they “agree that it is appropriate and necessary to keep the terms of the
settlement agreement confidential” [Doc. 18 p. 1; see also Doc. 20]. In addition to
requesting that the Court approve the settlement agreement, defendant requests leave to
file the settlement agreement under seal “in order to preserve the confidentiality of the
settlement agreement” [Doc. 19 p. 1]. In support of its request, defendant submits that
“the interest in preserving the confidentiality of the settlement agreement outweighs any
conceivable need for transparency” [Id.].
The Court notes that “a judicially approved FLSA settlement agreement should not
be filed under seal, except in the very limited circumstance where parties can make a
substantial showing that their need to seal the agreement outweighs the strong
presumption of public access that attaches to judicial documents.” Green v. Hepaco,
2014) (quoting Bouzzi v. F & J Pine Rest., LLC, 841 F. Supp. 2d 635, 639 (E.D.N.Y.
2012)); see also Dees v. Hydradry, Inc., 706 F. Supp. 2d 1227, 1242 (M.D. Fla. 2010)
(“A confidentiality provision in an FLSA settlement agreement both contravenes the
legislative purpose of the FLSA and undermines the Department of Labor’s regulatory
effort to notify employees of their FLSA rights.”). “The mere fact ‘that the settlement
agreement contains a confidentiality provision is an insufficient interest to overcome the
presumption that an approved FLSA settlement agreement is a judicial record, open to the
public.’” Nutting v. Unilever Mfg. (U.S.) Inc., No. 2:14-CV-2239, 2014 WL 2959481, at
*4 (W.D. Tenn. June 13, 2014) (quoting Scott v. Memory Co., LLC, No. 3:09-CV-290,
2010 WL 4683621, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 10, 2010)).
Other than conclusory assertions, the parties have not provided the Court with any
argument or legal authority to support the inclusion of a confidentiality provision in their
FLSA settlement agreement.
In addition, the parties have not made a “substantial
showing that their need to seal the agreement outweighs the strong presumption of public
access that attaches to judicial documents.” Green, 2014 WL 2624900, at *4.
The Court will, however, provide the parties with the opportunity to file
supplemental briefs in support of their requests. The parties are DIRECTED to file a
supplemental brief, either jointly or separately, that addresses the inclusion of a
confidentiality provision in a FLSA settlement agreement, and further addresses whether
the sealing of such an agreement is appropriate. In their supplemental briefing, the parties
may also address other proposed options, such as proceeding to trial, filing the settlement
agreement in the public record without the confidentiality provision, or other options that
they wish the Court to consider. The parties SHALL file a supplemental brief addressing
these issues within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this order and the Court will
DEFER consideration of the pending motions [Docs. 18, 19] until it reviews the
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Thomas A. Varlan
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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