United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Judith Ruiz and Defendant Gaby Food Services, Inc. jointly
move for approval of their settlement agreement, (doc. 18),
which in part represents the resolution of a disputed matter
under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201,
et seq. (“FLSA”). (Id.). For
the reasons set forth below, the court approves the
filed this action on September 30, 2016, alleging she was
deprived of a lawful minimum wage for hours worked in
violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq.
(Doc. 1). Specifically, Ruiz contends the defendant deducted
credit card fees in excess of the fee charged by the credit
card servicer and maintained a tip-sharing pool that violated
the “tip credit” allowances provided by the FLSA.
(Id.). The defendant filed an answer to the
complaint, (doc. 7), and the parties engaged in discovery.
However, recognizing and acknowledging the expense in time
and money of litigation, the uncertainty and risk of
litigation, as well as the difficulties and delays inherent
to such litigation, the parties have reached a settlement of
this action, the terms of which are contained in the
“Settlement Agreement, General Release and Waiver of
Judith Ruiz's Claims” (“the
Agreement”). (Docs. 18 at ¶¶ 2-3 & 18-2).
the Agreement, the defendant has agreed to pay Ruiz a
specified amount to settle her FLSA claims regarding the
dispute over improper deduction of credit card fees in
relation to the function of Defendant's tip pool and
attorney's fees and costs to Ruiz's
counsel.Specifically, Ruiz is to receive $ 3,
750.00 representing unpaid wages and $ 3, 750.00 representing
liquidated damages. (Doc. 18-2 at ¶ 1.a. (1)).
Ruiz's counsel will receive $ 7, 500.00. The parties
stipulate and agree the terms set forth in the Agreement
constitute a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona
fide dispute. (Doc. 18 at ¶¶ 3-4).
employee proves his employer violated the FLSA, 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 Fed.Appx. 349, 351 (11th Cir.
2009) (quoting Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S.
Dep't of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir.
1982)). “Any amount due that is not in dispute must be
paid unequivocally; employers may not extract valuable
concessions in return for payment that is indisputably owed
under the FLSA.” Hogan v. Allstate Beverage Co.,
Inc., 821 F.Supp.2d 1274, 1282 (M.D. Ala. 2011).
Consequently, parties may settle an FLSA claim for unpaid
wages only if there is a bona fide dispute relating to a
material issue concerning the claim.
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982), the Eleventh Circuit stated
there is only one context in which compromises of FLSA back
wage or liquidated damage claims may be allowed: a stipulated
judgment entered by a court which has determined that a
settlement proposed by an employer and employees, in a suit
brought by the employees under the FLSA, is a fair and
reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA
provisions. The primary focus of a court's inquiry in
determining whether to approve an FLSA settlement is to
ensure that an employer does not take advantage of its
employees in settling their claim for wages and other damages
due under the statute. Collins v. Sanderson Farms,
Inc., 568 F.Supp. 714, 719 (E.D. La. 2008).
the parties have a legitimate dispute as to the merits of the
case; specifically, Ruiz contends the defendant violated the
FLSA by failing to pay minimum wage for all hours worked and
the defendant disputes Ruiz's factual allegations that
she worked the hours claimed and contends no impermissible
deductions were made that would nullify Defendant's use
of the FLSA “tip-credit.” (See doc. 18
at ¶ 7). Defendant's settlement offer (as set out in
the terms above) is an appropriate amount for the disputed
unpaid wages. The proposed settlement agreement also contains
agreed-upon attorney's fees and costs amount. Ruiz's
attorney's fees were negotiated at arm's length and
the defendant agrees that the agreed upon amount is fair and
reasonable for the FLSA claim. (Doc. 18 at ¶ 16).
“Where the attorney's fee was agreed upon
separately, without regard to the amount paid to the
plaintiff, then ‘unless the settlement does not appear
reasonable on its face or there is reason to believe that the
plaintiffs recovery was adversely affected by the amount of
fees paid to his attorney, the Court will approve the
settlement without separately considering the reasonableness
of the fee to be paid to plaintiffs counsel.'”
Davis v. The Filta Group, Inc., 2010 WL 3958701, *2
(M.D. Fla. Sept. 20, 2010) (quoting Bonetti v. Embarq
Mgmt. Co., 2009 WL 2371407, *5 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 4,
2009)). Because the parties represent the attorney's fee
was separately negotiated, (doc. 18 at ¶¶ 16-18),
the court concludes Ruiz's recovery was not affected by
the amount of the attorneys' fee. The court has
considered the amount of the fee and finds it to be
court finds Ruiz's FLSA claims represent a bona fide
dispute over FLSA provisions and the parties' settlement
is a fair and reasonable resolution of these bona fide
the parties' Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement
(doc. 18) is GRANTED, and the settlement is
APPROVED. A separate order will be entered.