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Moore v. Elwood Staffing Services, Inc.

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

January 5, 2015

LAVONDA A. MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
ELWOOD STAFFING SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

JOHN H. ENGLAND, III, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Lavonda A. Moore ("Moore"), and Defendant Elwood Staffing Services, Inc. ("Elwood") jointly move for approval of their settlement agreement. (Doc. 16). The parties seek approval of the terms of their settlement agreement on Moore's claims for unpaid overtime pay as well as approval of separately negotiated attorneys' fees and costs to be paid to Moore's counsel under the settlement. ( Id. ). For the reasons set forth below, the Court approves the parties' settlement.

I. Background Facts

Moore filed this action on January 10, 2014. (Doc. 1). She alleges claims for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq. On February 5, 2014, Elwood answered the complaint, denying any noncompliance with the FLSA and asserting various affirmative defenses. (Doc. 6). 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, Elwood has agreed to pay Moore a specified amount to settle her claims for unpaid overtime. Elwood has also separately agreed to pay an agreed-upon amount of attorneys' fees and costs to Moore's counsel. The parties have provided their settlement agreement, (doc. 17, 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 Moore is entitled to any further 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 attorneys' fee and costs of the action. Silva v. Miller, 307 Fed.App'x. 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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