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Dodd v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 24, 2014

RANDY DODD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

JOHN H. ENGLAND, III, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs Randy Dodd, Demetrius Collins, Dedrick Bailey, Marquis Brown, and Reginald Herron (collectively Plaintiffs), and Defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Schneider") jointly move for approval of their settlement agreement.[2] (Doc. 37). The parties seek approval of the terms of their settlement agreement on Plaintiffs' claims for overtime pay as well as approval of separately negotiated attorneys' fees and costs to be paid to Plaintiffs' counsel under the settlement. ( Id. ). For the reasons set forth below, the court approves the parties' settlement and will dismiss Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice.

I. Background Facts

Plaintiffs Dodd and Collins filed this action on May 30, 2013. (Doc. 1). On July 17, 2013, Plaintiffs amended the complaint to add Bailey, Brown, and Herron as plaintiffs. (Doc. 12). Plaintiffs allege claims for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq. On August 5, 2013, Defendant answered the First Amended Complaint, denying Plaintiffs were entitled to any overtime compensation under the FLSA and asserting various affirmative defenses. (Doc.15). After exchange of discovery and negotiations, the parties reached a settlement, the terms of which are contained in the Confidential Settlement Agreement and General Release (the "Agreement"). The undersigned has reviewed the Agreement.

Under the Agreement, Defendant has agreed to pay Plaintiffs certain amounts to settle their claims. Defendant has agreed to pay Dodd, Collins, Bailey, and Brown a specified amount to settle their claims for certain overtime compensation. Defendant has also agreed to pay Herron 100% of his unpaid wage claim and 100% of his liquidated damages claim. Defendant has also separately agreed to pay an agreed upon amount of attorneys' fees and costs to Plaintiffs' counsel. The parties have supplied their settlement agreements, (doc. 35, sealed), which the undersigned has reviewed. The parties stipulate and agree the terms set forth in the Agreement constitute a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute regarding whether Plaintiffs are entitled to any further overtime compensation.

II. Analysis

Subject to specific exceptions, the FLSA provides that employees are entitled to receive overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular rate for all hours worked in excess of forty per week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). An employer who violates the FLSA is liable to its employee for both unpaid overtime compensation and for an equal amount in liquidated damages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). In an action to recover unpaid overtime compensation, a court is further required to award a prevailing plaintiff a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of the action. Silva v. Miller, 307 Fed.Appx. 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).

Judicial review and approval of an FLSA settlement is necessary to give it final and binding effect. Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982). Before approving a FLSA settlement, a court must scrutinize it to determine if it is "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute." Id. at 1354-55. If the settlement reflects a reasonable compromise over issues that are actually in dispute, the Court may approve the settlement "to promote the policy of encouraging settlement of litigation." Id. at 1354. In determining whether the settlement is fair and reasonable, the court should consider the following factors:

1. the existence of fraud or collusions behind the settlement;
2. the complexity, expense, and likely duration of litigation;
3. the stage of the proceeding and the amount of discovery completed;
4. the probability of success on the merits;
5. the range of possible ...

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