United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
opinion concerns a proposed FLSA settlement. In her amended
complaint, plaintiff Rhonda Kaikkonen contends that defendant
Ascent Hospitality Management Company (d/b/a Huntsville
Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center) and Fictitious
Defendants 1-5, violated provisions of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and committed state law torts. (Doc. 12,
pp. 8-16, ¶¶ 34-66). In addition, in her amended
complaint, Ms. Kaikkonen asserts that Ascent violated the
Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq. (Doc. 12, p. 16, ¶¶ 67-68). As part of a
broader settlement agreement, the parties have agreed to
resolve Ms. Kaikkonen's FLSA claim, and the parties have
asked the Court to review the terms of the proposed FLSA
settlement. (Doc. 19). For the reasons stated below, the
Court approves the FLSA settlement because it is a fair and
reasonable compromise of a bona fide dispute.
Kaikkonen filed this action on July 25, 2018, and later
amended the complaint to include an FLSA claim. (Doc. 1; Doc.
12). Ms. Kaikkonen worked at the Huntsville Marriott from
November 28, 2016 until mid-May 2018. (Doc. 12, p. 5, ¶
15; Doc. 12, p. 7, ¶ 23).
Kaikkonen alleges that Ascent violated the FLSA by failing to
pay the overtime compensation rates for work performed in
excess of 40 hours per week. (Doc. 12, p. 16, ¶ 68). Ms.
Kaikkonen contends that she was employed as a “M-Club
concierge.” For this position, Ms. Kaikkonen was paid a
base rate of $8.50 per hour during base scheduled hours-5am
to 12 pm. (Doc. 12, p. 7, ¶¶ 25-26). Ms. Kaikkonen
asserts that she was required to perform duties outside of
the base scheduled hours for which she was not paid
additional wages. (Doc. 12, p. 7, ¶¶ 27-28). Ms.
Kaikkonen also contends that she worked five hours per day
beyond her scheduled shift in other departments of the hotel.
(Doc. 12, pp. 7-8, ¶¶ 29-30). Ms. Kaikkonen
contends that Ascent compensated her at her standard base
hourly rate, not the overtime rate, for work performed in
excess of forty hours per week. (Doc. 12, p. 8, ¶¶
the assistance of a mediator, the parties have negotiated a
settlement of all of Ms. Kaikkonen's claims, including
the FLSA claim. (Doc. 19, p. 3). In exchange for dismissal of
the FLSA claims against it with prejudice, Ascent has agreed
to pay Ms. Kaikkonen $61.63 for unpaid overtime wages. (Doc.
19, p. 3). This amount reflects 14.5 overtime hours paid at
an overtime premium of $4.25 per hour in addition to what Ms.
Kaikkonen was paid at her standard hourly rate. (Doc. 19, p.
3). The parties have agreed to exclude liquidated damages.
(Doc. 19, p. 3). Additionally, Ascent will pay to
plaintiff's counsel $900 in attorney's fees for three
hours devoted to the FLSA claim. (Doc. 19, p. 3). To
accommodate a resolution, plaintiff's counsel agrees to
compromise this amount below her normal hourly rate of $350
per hour. (Doc. 19, p. 3).
record, the Court considers the parties' motion to
approve the proposed settlement of the FLSA claim.
Approval of the Settlement
enacted the FLSA in 1938 with the goal of ‘protect[ing]
all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive
working hours.' Among other requirements, the FLSA
obligates employers to compensate employees for hours in
excess of 40 per week at a rate of 1½ times the
employees' regular wages.” 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 Brooklyn, 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 proposed settlement
agreement, the Court finds that there is a bona fide dispute
in this matter that supports the proposed settlement. Ms.
Kaikkonen asserts that Ascent failed to pay her overtime
compensation for hours she worked in excess of forty hours a
week. (Doc. 12, p. 8, ¶ 33). Ascent denies the
allegation. (Doc. 13, p. 5, ¶ 33). Ascent also denies
that its alleged FLSA violation was willful. (Doc. 19, p. 3).
This bona fide dispute supports the parties' proposed
Court finds that the method used to calculate the
plaintiff's disputed wages is fair and reasonable under
the circumstances of this case. The parties negotiated a
broad settlement to resolve Ms. Kaikkonen's FLSA claim
and her Title VII and state law claims. As part of this
broader settlement, the parties designated $61.63 to
compensate Ms. Kaikkonen for 14.5 hours of overtime work for
which she was previously paid ...