United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff Ernest Brooks (“Brooks”) and Defendant
Postal Fleet Services, Inc. (“Postal Fleet”)
jointly move for approval of their settlement agreement,
which represents the resolution of a disputed matter under
the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et
seq. (“FLSA”). (Doc. 14). For the reasons
set forth below, the court APPROVES the
a former Assistant Manager of Postal Fleet, filed this action
on December 18, 2017, alleging he was not paid overtime wages
for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, when he
was performing the vast majority of work driving hauling
trucks. (Doc. 1). Brooks alleged that due to his extensive
non-management duties he did not qualify for the
administrative or professional exemption from overtime under
§13(a)(1) of the FLSA. (Id.). As relief, Brooks
sought the alleged unpaid back wages, statutory liquidated
damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. (Id.).
Fleet denies all liability and disputes Brooks' claims on
factual and legal basis. (Doc. 7). Postal Fleet maintains
that Brooks was exempt from the overtime compensation
requirements of the FLSA as a driver of a commercial motor
vehicle under the 29 USC §213(b)(1) related to the Motor
Carrier Act exemptions. (See doc. 14 at 2). Postal
Fleet also denies that Brooks was not properly compensated
for the time he worked and denies that he is entitled to
overtime or any additional compensation or damages.
(See docs. 7 & 14).
Brooks filed the Complaint and the parties exchanged FRCP
Rule 26(a)(1) Initial Disclosures, the parties engaged in
arms-length discussions about the merits of the case. (Doc.
14 at 2). The parties continue to disagree on various factual
and legal issues, including the hours Brooks worked,
Brooks' job duties, and whether Brooks is exempt from the
overtime requirements. (Id.). Facts were discovered
in preparation to exchange Rule 26 Initial Disclosures that
Brooks almost exclusively drove commercial motor vehicles in
excess of 10, 000 pounds, subjecting Brooks to the exemption
from the payment of overtime under the Motor Carrier Act
Exemption. (Id. at 2-3 citing 29 U.S.C.
§213(b)(1)). In light of these discrepancies to the
original claim, the uncertainty of their outcome in
litigation, the significant time and expense involved in
litigating the case through trial, and the difficulties and
delays inherent in such litigation, the parties agreed to
settle the case, with Postal Fleet to pay a compromised
amount of unpaid wages. (Id. at 3). On February 20,
2018, the parties executed a Settlement Agreement, (doc.
14-1). (Doc. 14 at 3).
Settlement Agreement provides for a total payment of $1, 000
to Brooks - $1, 000.00 for unpaid wages and liquidated
damages. Brooks claimed he worked twenty to forty overtime
hours per week and that his job consisted primarily of
driving a commercial motor vehicle. (Doc. 14 at 3). Postal
Fleet provided Brooks with information challenging the number
of hours he claimed he worked and information regarding his
job duties that evidenced his overtime exempt status under
the Motor Carrier Act Exemption. (Id. citing 29
U.S.C. §213(b)(1)). In light of that information, and
after further discussion between the parties, the parties
agreed the total sum of $1000.00 was a fair and reasonable
compromise. (Id.). Postal Fleet contends its
reliance on the Motor Carrier Act Exemption from the payment
of overtime was in good faith, and therefore, liquidated
damages are disputed; nevertheless, for the purposes of
settlement only, the payment of $1000.00 is intended to
include liquidated damages. (Id. at 3-4).
the parties separately negotiated the amount of
attorneys' fees and costs Postal Fleet would pay so that
Brooks' recovery would not be affected. The parties
negotiated $750.00 to cover Brooks' attorneys' fees
and $400.50 for costs.
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).
Bona Fide Dispute Between the Parties
the parties have a legitimate, bona fide dispute as to the
merits of the case; specifically, Brooks alleges Postal Fleet
failed to pay his overtime wages for certain hours worked in
excess of forty in a work week, and Postal Fleet denied those
allegations and raised additional affirmative defenses,
including applicable exemptions from the overtime
requirements. (Docs. 1 & 7). After exchanging information
and discussing the merits of Brooks' claims, the parties
continue to disagree as to whether overtime wages are owed to
Reasonableness of ...