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Romero v. La Revise Assocs., L.L.C.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 12, 2014

RUBEN ROMERO, on behalf of himself, FLSA Collective Plaintiffs, and the Class, Plaintiff,
v.
LA REVISE ASSOCIATES, L.L.C. et al., Defendants

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For Ruben Romero, on behalf of himself, FLSA Collective Plaintiffs and, the Class, Plaintiff: Anne Melissa Seelig, C.K. Lee, Shin Young Hahn, Lee Litigation Group, PLLC, New York, N.Y. USA.

For Vianey Rojas Mejia, Charlotte Denoyer, Hyeyoung Jun, Emilie Jean, Luis Filpo, Svjetlana Blagojevic, Plaintiffs: C.K. Lee, Lee Litigation Group, PLLC, New York, N.Y. USA.

For La Revise Associates, L.L.C., doing business as, Brasserie Ruhlmann, Jean Denoyer, Regis Marnier, Defendants: Dean Lawrence Silverberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. (Stamford), Stamford, CT USA; Kenneth Welch DiGia, Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. (New York), New York, N.Y. USA.

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OPINION & ORDER

GABRIEL W. GORENSTEIN, United States Magistrate Judge.

Ruben Romero (" Romero" ) sued La Revise Associates, LLC d/b/a Brasserie Ruhlmann, Jean Denoyer, and Regis Marnier (collectively, " defendants" ) for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § § 201 et seq. (" FLSA" ), and the New York Labor Law (" NYLL" ). Plaintiff commenced the action as an FLSA collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), and a putative class action as to the NYLL claims under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties have consented to conduct all proceedings before the undersigned, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

Romero now seeks an order certifying the settlement class; approving the class action settlement; approving the FLSA settlement; and awarding a service award to named plaintiff Romero, attorneys' fees and costs to class counsel, and fees to the claims administrator. For the following reasons, the motions (Docket ## 78, 81, 83) are granted, with certain modifications detailed below.

I. BACKGROUND

The complaint alleges that Romero and other members of the FLSA collective and NYLL putative class were employed by defendants. See Complaint, filed Nov. 15, 2012 (Docket # 1) (" Compl." ), ¶ 10. It alleges that defendants failed to pay them the minimum required hourly wage, failed to properly inform them of their rights under the FLSA, and failed to provide them with adequate wage statements. See id. ¶ ¶ 41, 44, 51-52. The proposed class has been defined to include defendants'

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current and former employees who worked as nonexempt employees from November 15, 2006 through February 1, 2014 and who did not have arbitration agreements with defendants. See Order, dated July 2, 2014 (Docket # 72) (" Preliminary Approval Order" ), ¶ 5.

After extensive negotiations, the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement in April 2014. See Declaration of C.K. Lee in Support of Plaintiff's Unopposed Motion for Certification of the Settlement Class, Final Approval of the Class Settlement and Approval of the FLSA Settlement, filed Sept. 2, 2014 (Docket # 80) (" Lee Decl." ), ¶ ¶ 14-15. That agreement creates a fund of $250,000, which will cover class members' awards, a service award to Romero, attorneys' fees and costs, and administration costs. Id. ¶ 20. According to plaintiff's counsel, the Settlement Agreement provided that after the deduction of attorneys' fees and costs, administration fees, and a service payment to Romero, each member of the " Non--Tipped Subclass" -- that is, employees who were not receiving tips -- would receive a payment of $100. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Unopposed Motion for Certification of the Settlement Class, Final Approval of the Class Action Settlement and Approval of the FLSA Settlement, filed Sept. 2, 2014 (Docket # 79) (" Pl. Mem." ), at 2, 4. Each member of the " Tipped Subclass" would receive allocations based on their weeks worked, as recorded in defendants' records. Id. at 4.

On July 2, 2014, this Court preliminarily approved the Settlement Agreement. See Preliminary Approval Order ¶ 1. The Court also provisionally certified the settlement class as consisting of " [a]ll current and former employees of Defendants who worked as non--exempt employees from November 15, 2006 through February 1, 2014 and who did not have arbitration agreements and are listed on Exhibit A to the Settlement Agreement." Id. ¶ 5. Additionally, the Court appointed plaintiff's counsel C.K. Lee as class counsel for settlement purposes, id. ¶ 8, and approved a notice to class members informing them of the proposed settlement (the " Notice" ), id. ¶ 10.

The Notice was sent to all 486 identified potential class members on July 24, 2014. Lee Decl. ¶ ¶ 17, 21. That Notice summarized the Settlement Agreement and informed the potential class members of their rights under the settlement, including their right to opt out or object. See Notice of Pendency of Class Action and Proposed Settlement, dated July 24, 2014 (annexed to Preliminary Approval Order, Docket # 72). It also informed them that Romero sought a $10,000 service award, that class counsel sought fees in the amount of one-third of the settlement fund to be deducted from that fund, and that the administrator's fee of $25,000 would also be deducted from the settlement fund. See id. at 3, 5.

The Notice provided that potential class members who wished to opt out of the settlement should send signed, written statements, postmarked by August 18, 2014. Id. at 5. Between August 7, 2014, and August 13, 2014, five such statements were filed with the court (Docket ## 73-77). Additionally, on October 6, 2014, the court received one late opt-out notice (Docket # 86). No objections to the settlement were filed.

On October 17, 2014, this Court held a fairness hearing. No class member appeared at that hearing, nor has any member opposed the proposed settlement.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Final Certification of the Settlement Class

Under Rule 23(a), a class must meet the requirements of ...


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