United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
opinion concerns a proposed FLSA settlement. In the
complaint, plaintiffs Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, and Jane Doe 3
contend that defendants G&M, LLC d/b/a Foxx Tails and
Gail Rodgers violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards
Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq. The parties have agreed to settle the
plaintiffs' FLSA claims, and the parties have asked the
Court to approve the terms of the proposed settlement. (Doc.
54). For the reasons stated below, the Court approves the
settlement because it is a fair and reasonable compromise of
a bona fide dispute.
Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 filed this action on September 8, 2016,
and later amended the complaint to add Jane Doe 3 as a
plaintiff. (Doc. 1; Doc. 13). Each plaintiff worked as a
dancer at Foxx Tails, a lounge and night club. (Doc. 13, p.
4). Jane Doe 1 worked at Foxx Tails in September and October
of 2015. (Doc. 13, p. 3). Jane Doe 2 worked at Foxx Tails in
September and October of 2015. (Doc. 13, p. 3). Jane Doe 3
worked at Foxx Tails from February of 2014 to May of 2016.
(Doc. 13, p. 3).
plaintiffs allege that Foxx Tails violated the FLSA, 29
U.S.C. § 206, et seq., by failing to pay the
plaintiffs the required minimum wage for each hour worked.
(Doc. 13, pp. 5, 18). According to the plaintiffs, Foxx Tails
classified the plaintiffs as independent contractors, did not
pay the plaintiffs minimum wage, and retained portions of
plaintiffs' tips. (Doc. 13, pp. 18-26). Foxx Tails denies
that it violated the FLSA. (Doc. 39, p. 14). Foxx Tails
argues that the plaintiffs were independent contractors who
are not entitled to recover under the FLSA. (Doc. 54, p. 3).
Moreover, Foxx Tails contends that even if the plaintiffs
were employees, there are no records of the number of shifts
the plaintiffs worked, the portion of tips the plaintiffs
paid, or the number of private dances the plaintiffs
performed. (Doc. 54, p. 3). Foxx Tails has raised several
affirmative defenses and a counter claim for unjust
enrichment. (Doc. 39, pp. 11-15).
the assistance of a mediator, the parties negotiated a
settlement of the plaintiffs' FLSA claims. (Doc. 54, p.
2). In exchange for dismissal of the FSLA claims against it
with prejudice, Foxx Tails has agreed to settle the
plaintiffs' FLSA claims for a sum of $23, 800.00. (Doc.
54, p. 5). The $23, 800.00 consists of Jane Doe 1 receiving
$1, 100.00, Jane Doe 2 receiving $16, 000.00, and Jane Doe 3
receiving $6, 700.00. (Doc. 54, p. 5). Additionally, Foxx
Tails will reimburse plaintiffs' expenses totaling $1,
290.99 and pay an attorney's fee of $21, 909.01. (Doc.
54, p. 4).
record, the Court considers the parties' motion to
approve the proposed settlement of the plaintiffs' FLSA
enacted the FLSA in 1938 with the goal of ‘protect[ing]
all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive
working hours.'” Christopher v. SmithKline
Beecham Corp., 567 U.S. 142, 147 (2012) (quoting
Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., 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
employee proves that her 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. ex.
rel. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th
Cir. 1982)); see also O'Neil, 324 U.S. at 707.
“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).
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. To compromise a claim for unpaid wages,
the parties must “present to the district court a
proposed settlement, [and] the district court may enter a
stipulated judgment after scrutinizing the settlement for
fairness.” Lynn's Food, 679 F.2d at 1352;
see also Hogan, 821 F.Supp.2d at 1281-82.
“[T]he parties requesting review of an FLSA compromise
must provide enough information for the court to examine the
bona fides of the dispute.” Dees v. Hydradry,
Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1241 (M.D. Fla. 2010). The
information that the parties provide should enable the Court
“to ensure that employees have received all uncontested
wages due and that they have received a fair deal regarding
any additional amount that remains in controversy.”
Hogan, 821 F.Supp.2d at 1282. “If a settlement
in an employee FLSA suit does reflect a reasonable compromise
over issues, such as FLSA coverage or computation of back
wages, that are actually in dispute, ” then a court may
approve a settlement. Lynn's Food, 679 F.2d at
1354; see also Silva, 307 Fed.Appx. at 351
(emphasizing that a proposed settlement must be fair and
on the Court's review of the parties' motion for
approval of their proposed settlement agreement and the
information that the parties provided to the Court during the
September 24, 2018 conference concerning the proposed
settlement, the Court finds that there is a bona fide dispute
in this matter that supports the proposed settlement. The
parties dispute whether the plaintiffs are employees entitled
to wages under the FLSA or independent contractors. (Doc. 39,
p. 14; Doc. 43, p. 2). Foxx Tails also challenges the
plaintiffs' ability to prove the hours that they worked
because there are no records of those hours, but if the
plaintiffs are employees, then the defendant was obligated to
maintain records of the plaintiffs' hours. Anderson
v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 686-88 (1946).
These bona fide disputes support the parties' proposed
Court finds that the method used to calculate the
plaintiffs' disputed wages is fair and reasonable under
the circumstances of this case. The settlement proceeds of
$1, 100.00 for Jane Doe 1, $16, 000.00 for Jane Doe 2, and
$6, 700.00 for Jane Doe 3 represent a fair and reasonable
compromise based on the existing evidence regarding unpaid
wages. (Doc. 54, p. 4). The amount of a damage award is
uncertain because there is little documentation of the hours
worked, pay given, or tips received by the plaintiffs. (Doc.
54, p. 3).
parties also negotiated an attorney's fees of $21,
909.01. (Doc. 54, p. 4). The “FLSA requires judicial
review of the reasonableness of counsel's legal fees to
assure both that counsel is compensated adequately and that
no conflict of interest taints the amount the wronged
employee recovers under a settlement agreement.”
Silva, 307 Fed.Appx. at 351 (citing Lynn's
Food, 679 F.2d at 1352); see also Briggins v. Elwood
TRI, Inc., 3 F.Supp.3d 1277, 1290 (N.D. Ala. 2014)
(noting that even where payment of attorney's fees does
not reduce the compensation negotiated for and payable to an
FLSA plaintiff, “the court is required to review for
fairness and approve the fee and expenses proposed to be paid
by the defendants in the settlement.”). Based on its
review of the record, the Court finds that the attorney's
fee of $21, 909.01 is fair and reasonable. ...