United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division
VICKY BATTS, CHERYL PUCKETT, MEGAN DESIREE MILLER, LUCINDA DOTSON, EMILY AYERS, SKYLER BURGESS, JOSHUA CARLISLE, JAMES RODNEY HAMPTON, KELBY LEIGH HEAD, RACHEL NICHOLE HOWARD, JANIE JEFFERYS, CAMERON CASSADY, SHANNON DOTSON, JEANINE PARTAIN, and SHELLY AYERS, Plaintiffs,
MID SOUTH WAFFLES, INC., d/b/a WAFFLE HOUSE, Defendant.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.
I. Factual Background
The plaintiffs, Vicky Batts, Cheryl Puckett, Megan Desiree Miller, Lucinda Dotson, Emily Ayers, Skyler Burgess, Joshua Carlisle, James Rodney Hampton, Kelby Leigh Head, Rachel Nichole Howard, Janie Jefferys, Cameron Cassady, Shannon Dotson, Jeanine Partain, and Shelly Ayers, filed this lawsuit on October 21, 2013 pursuant to § 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. (Doc. 1, p. 2). Regina Gail Woods joined the lawsuit in October 2013. (Doc. 14, p. 2). Plaintiffs claim that their employer, Mid South Waffles, Inc., failed to pay them properly for their work. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 37-42).
After exchanging information and evaluating the plaintiffs' claims, the parties negotiated a settlement and filed a joint motion for court approval of their proposed FLSA settlement. (Doc. 14, p. 2-3). Although it denies the plaintiffs' claims, Mid South Waffles has agreed to pay a total of $32, 500 to settle the case. ( Id. ). That sum includes $17, 256.66 in attorney fees. ( Id. at 4). The balance of the settlement fund will be distributed to the plaintiffs as follows:
Plaintiff Settlement Amount Rachel Nichole Howard $21.75 Regina Gail Woods $35.89 Cameron Cassady $348.71 Cheryl Puckett $1, 409.02 Emily Ayers $1, 981.05 James Rodney Hampton $1, 732.01 Janie Jefferys $355.96 Jeanine Partain $2, 535.68 Kelby Leigh Head $139.91 Lucinda Dotson $99.69 Megan Desiree Miller $173.63 Shelly Ayers $1, 218.71 Shannon Dotson $1, 653.71 Skyler Burgess $249.35 Victoria Batts $1, 508.35 Cassandra Salters $1, 391.96
Callie Hurd Forsythe $391.96
( Id. at 4-5). The parties calculated these payments based on the number of shifts each plaintiff worked for Mid South Waffles during the time period at issue in this lawsuit. ( Id. at 4).
On this record, the Court considers the parties' motion to approve the proposed settlement of the plaintiffs' FLSA claims.
A. The Fair Labor Standards Act
"Congress enacted the FLSA in 1938 with the goal of protect[ing] all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours.' Among other requirements, the FLSA obligates employers to compensate employees for hours in excess of 40 per week at a rate of 1 ½ times the employees' regular wages." Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 132 S.Ct. 2156, 2162 (2012) (quoting Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981)); see also 29 U.S.C. §§ 202, 207(a). Congress designed the FLSA "to ensure that each employee covered by the Act would receive [a] fair day's pay for a fair day's work' and would be protected from the evil of overwork' as well as underpay.'" Barrentine, 450 U.S. at 739 (emphasis in original). In doing so, Congress sought to protect "the public's independent interest in assuring that employees' wages are fair and thus do not endanger the national health and well-being.'" Stalnaker v. Novar Corp., 293 F.Supp.2d 1260, 1264 (M.D. Ala. 2003) (quoting Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945)).
If an employee proves that his employer violated the FLSA, then the employer must remit to the employee all unpaid wages or compensation, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid wages, a reasonable attorney's fee, and costs. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). "FLSA provisions are mandatory; the provisions are not subject to negotiation or bargaining between employer and employee.'" Silva v. Miller, 307 F.Appx. 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. ex. Rel. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1982)); see also Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 707 (1945). "Any amount due that is not in dispute must be paid unequivocally; employers may ...