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Hanifin v. Accurate Inventory and Calculating Service, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

August 20, 2014

KERRY HANIFIN, on behalf of himself, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
ACCURATE INVENTORY AND CALCULATING SERVICE, INC. d/b/a QUANTUM SERVICES Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR (1) CERTIFICATION OF THE SETTLEMENT CLASS, FINAL APPROVAL OF THE CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, AND APPROVAL OF THE FLSA SETTLEMENT; (2) APPROVAL OF ATTORNEYS' FEES AND REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES; (3) APPROVAL OF SERVICE AWARDS

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kerry Hanifin is a former employee of Defendant Accurate Inventory and Calculating Service, Inc. d/b/a/Quantum Services ("Quantum"). On December 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Class Action Complaint ("Complaint") on behalf of former and current Auditors and Audit Supervisors (collectively, "Class Members") employed by Quantum in the United States, alleging that Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL") by (1) failing to pay Class Members for all hours worked; (2) failing to pay Class Members for time spent traveling to and from designated meet-up sites; (3) failing to reimburse Class Members for business expenses. ECF No. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.

After engaging in formal discovery and extensive settlement discussions, the Parties reached a settlement totaling $650, 000.00. Decl. of Adam T. Klein in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. for Certification of the Settlement Class, Final Approval of the Class Action Settlement, and Approval of the FLSA Settlement ("Klein Decl.") ¶¶ 11-29, 33. The Parties reached this settlement after private mediation with mediator Bob Kaiser, a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, and further settlement negotiations between counsel. Id. ¶ 20-27.

On May 14, 2014, this Court entered an Order preliminarily approving the settlement on behalf of the class set forth therein, conditionally certifying the settlement class, appointing Outten & Golden LLP ("O&G") and Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP ("SWCK") as Class Counsel, and authorizing notice to all Class Members. ECF No. 110.

On June 13, 2014, a claims administrator sent Court-approved notices to all Class Members informing them of their rights under the settlement, including the right to opt out or object to the settlement. Decl. of Terry Sutor ("Sutor Decl.") ¶ 7. No Class Member objected to the settlement, and no Class Member opted out of the settlement. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.

On August 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Certification of the Settlement Class, Final Approval of the Class Action Settlement, and Approval of the FLSA Settlement ("Motion for Final Approval"). That same day, Plaintiff also filed Motions for Approval of Attorneys' Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses ("Motion for Attorneys' Fees") and for Service Awards ("Motion for Service Awards"). Defendant took no position with respect to any of these motions and did not object to the requests for attorneys' fees, costs, or service payments.

The Court held a fairness hearing on August 18, 2014. No Class Member objected to the settlement at the hearing.

Having considered the Motion for Final Approval, the Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses, the Motion for Service Awards, and the supporting declarations, the oral argument presented at the August 18, 2014 fairness hearing, and the complete record in this matter, for the reasons set forth therein and stated on the record at the August 18, 2014 fairness hearing, and for good cause shown,

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED:

CERTIFICATION OF THE SETTLEMENT CLASS

1. The Court certifies the following Class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e), for settlement purposes (the "Rule 23 Class Members"): all current and former Auditors and Audit Supervisors employed by Defendant in New York State at any time between December 22, 2005 and August 5, 2013.

2. Plaintiff meets all of the requirements for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3).

3. Plaintiff satisfies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(1) because there are approximately 97 Rule 23 Class Members and, thus, joinder is impracticable. See Consol. Rail Corp. v. Town of Hyde Park, 47 F.3d 473, 483 (2d Cir. 1995) ("[N]umerosity is presumed at a level of 40 members....").

4. This case involves several common factual and legal issues, including whether Defendant: (1) required workers to work off the clock; (2) was obligated to pay Class Members for time spent traveling to and from audit sites and meet-up sites; (3) took unlawful deductions from employees' wages by requiring them to pay Defendant's business expenses. These alleged wage and hour violations - involving common operative facts stemming from corporate policies that affected Class Members in the same way - are sufficient to meet Rule 23(a)'s commonality factor. See Capsolas v. Pasta Res. Inc., No. 10 Civ. 5595, 2012 WL 4760910, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 5, 2012) (finding commonality where defendants "allegedly us[ed] the equivalent of 4-5% of each shift's wine sales to pay sommeliers' salaries and [failed] to pay spread-of-hours pay."); Campos v. Goode, No. 10 Civ. 0224, 2010 WL 5508100, at *1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2010) (commonality satisfied where restaurant workers raised overtime, tip misappropriation, spread of hours, and uniform claims); deMunecas v. Bold Food, LLC, No. 09 Civ. 00440, 2010 WL 2399345, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 2010) (commonality satisfied where restaurant workers inter alia raised tip misappropriation, spread of hours, and uniform claims).

5. Plaintiff satisfies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(3), typicality, because Plaintiff's wage and hour claims arise from the same factual and legal circumstances that form the basis of Class Members' claims. See Hernandez v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., No. 11 Civ. 8472, 2013 WL 1209563, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2013) (typicality satisfied where "[p]laintiffs' [overtime claims] claims arose from the same factual and legal circumstances that form[ed] the bases of the [c]lass [m]embers' claims"); Morris, 859 F.Supp.2d at 616 (same).

6. Plaintiff satisfies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(4) because there is no evidence that the Plaintiff's and Class Members' interests are at odds. See Beckman, 293 F.R.D. at 473 (finding adequacy requirement met where there was no evidence that plaintiffs' and class members' interests were at odds); accord Diaz v. E. Locating Serv. Inc., No. 10 Civ. 4082, 2010 WL 5507912, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2010).

7. In addition, Plaintiff's Counsel also meet the adequacy requirement of Rule 23(a)(4). Outten & Golden attorneys have "substantial experience prosecuting and settling employment class actions, including wage and hour class actions[, ] and are well-versed in wage and hour law and class action law." Beckman, 293 F.R.D. at 473 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Likewise, SWCK is "well-qualified to represent Plaintiffs' interests in this action" due to their "extensive experience with class actions." Wren v. RGIS Inventory Specialists, No. 06 Civ. 5778, 2011 WL 1230826, at *9-10 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 1, 2011).

8. Plaintiff also satisfies Rule 23(b)(3). Plaintiff's and Class Members' common factual allegations and legal theory - that Defendant violated federal and state wage and hour laws by failing to pay them for all compensable time and failing to properly reimburse them for expenses - predominate over any factual or legal variations among Class Members. See Asare v. Change Grp. of N.Y., Inc., No. 12 Civ. 3371, 2013 WL 6144764, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 18, 2013) (predominance satisfied where workers brought claims for off-the-clock work and unlawful deductions); Morris, 859 F.Supp.2d at 615, 617 (predominance satisfied in case alleging that defendant did not pay workers for time spent working off the clock).

9. Class adjudication of this case is superior to individual adjudication because it will conserve judicial resources and is more efficient for class members, particularly those who lack the resources to bring their claims individually. See Beckman, 293 F.R.D. at 473; Morris, 859 F.Supp.2d at 617. Concentrating the litigation in this Court is desirable because much of the allegedly wrongful conduct occurred within its jurisdiction.

APPROVAL OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

10. The Court hereby grants the Motion for Final Approval and finally approves the settlement as set forth in the Settlement Agreement.

11. Rule 23(e) requires court approval for a class action settlement to insure that it is procedurally and substantively "fair, reasonable and adequate." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e). To determine procedural fairness, courts examine the "negotiating process leading to the settlement." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Visa U.S.A. Inc., 396 F.3d 96, 116 (2d Cir. 2005); D'Amato v. Deutsche Bank, 236 F.3d 78, 85 (2d Cir. 2001). To determine substantive fairness, courts determine whether the settlement's terms are fair, adequate, and reasonable according to the factors set forth in City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 495 F.2d 448 (2d Cir. 1974), abrogated on other grounds by Goldberger v. Integrated Res., Inc., 209 F.3d 43 (2d Cir. 2000).

12. Courts examine procedural and substantive fairness in light of the "strong judicial policy in favor of settlement" of class action suits. Wal-Mart Stores, 396 F.3d at 116 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Spann v. AOL Time Warner, Inc., No. 02 Civ. 8238, 2005 WL 1330937, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. June 7, ...


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