United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Matthew Tackett (“Tackett” or “Plaintiff)
and Defendants Alabama Plumbing Contractor, LLC
(“APC”), Brent Vacarella
(“Vacarella”), Greg Johnson
(“Johnson”), and Josh Martin (“Martin,
” and, together with the other defendants,
“Defendants”) have jointly requested 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”).
(Docs. 4). For the reasons set forth below, the court
approves the parties' settlement.
filed this action on December 11, 2019, asserting a single
FLSA count. (Doc. 1). Specifically, Tackett states he was
employed as a plumber by APC, a plumbing contractor, for
approximately five years. (Id. at ¶ 7, 12-13).
According to the complaint, Vacarella, Johnson, and Martin
are all members of APC and are involved with its day-to-day
operations and management. (Id. at ¶¶
8-10). Tackett says he was classified as non-exempt and paid
by the hour. (Id. at ¶ 14). Tackett alleges he
was required by APC policy to pick up the company's
plumbing truck from its shop and return the truck back to the
stop at the end of the day. (Id. at ¶ 15). If
Tackett worked late or needed to be at a jobsite early the
next morning, Tackett would take the truck home rather than
take it back to the shop. (Id. at ¶ 16).
Tackett says Defendants failed to pay him minimum wage or
overtime for driving the truck from the shop or to the
jobsite, which averaged 10 hours per week. (Id. at
have not yet answered the complaint, but have entered into a
settlement agreement with Tackett. (Doc. 4-1). Under the
settlement agreement, Tackett receives $22, 614.32 in wages
and $19, 314.31 in liquidated damages. (Id. at 1).
Tackett's counsel receives $23, 071.37 in attorney fees.
parties have also executed a general release, under which
Tackett releases “any and all claims, known and
unknown, asserted or unasserted, which [he] has or may have
against [Defendants] as of the date of the execution of [the
release], including, but not limited to, any alleged
violation of” a number of employment-related
statutes. (Id. at 6-7). In turn, Defendants
release Tackett from “any and all claims, whether civil
claims or equitable claims arising under the laws of the
United States, Alabama, any other state and/or any other
country. (Id. at 7). In consideration of executing
this release, Tackett receives $3, 300.00 and Tackett's
counsel receives $1, 700.00. (Id. at 6).
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 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.
reviewed the parties' motion and the settlement
agreement, the undersigned finds that they have reached a
fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute.
Although Defendants have not answered the complaint, the
motion reflects that they “deny that Plaintiff is owed
unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, or any
other relief” and have agreed to settle to avoid the
expense of defending the lawsuit. (Doc. 4 at 5). The parties
further represent to the court that they achieved the
settlement agreement through arms-length negotiation.
(Id.). The undersigned notes that all parties are
represented by counsel. Additionally, the settlement amount
is not inconsistent with a back-of-the-envelope estimation of
the value of Tackett's claims, as articulated in the
complaint. And, finally, Tackett's attorneys'
fees for the wage portion of his claim were separately
negotiated so as not to affect his recovery. “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 plaintiff's 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 plaintiff's 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)). Therefore, the
undersigned finds the attorneys' fees are
only other potential issue presented by the parties'
settlement agreement is the general release. An employer may
not “use an FLSA claim (a matter arising from the
employer's failing to comply with the FLSA) to leverage a
release from liability unconnected to the FLSA.”
Moreno v. Regions Bank, 729 F.Supp.2d 1346, 1351
(M.D. Fla. 2010). However, the general release in this case
is not “a gratuitous . . . release of all claims in
exchange for money unconditionally owed to the employee,
” id, for two reasons. First, Tackett receives
separate consideration “in addition to the
consideration paid to [him] in the FLSA Settlement
Agreement” for executing the general release,
(see doc. 4-1 at 6), so the release was not obtained
in exchange for money due to Tackett under the FLSA. Second,
the release in this case is mutual, (see Id. at 7),
strongly implying that it was not simply leveraged out of
Tackett's FLSA claims. With both of these facts in mind,
the undersigned finds the general release is not inconsistent
with the FLSA. Therefore, the settlement is approved.
court finds Plaintiffs FLSA wage claim represents a bona fide
dispute over FLSA provisions and the parties' monetary
settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution of that bona
fide disputes. Therefore, the parties' motion for
settlement approval, (doc. 4), is GRANTED,