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Galantowicz v. Rhino Room Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 8, 2015

MATTHEW GALANTOWICZ, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
RHINO ROOM INC. d/b/a BUFFALO CHOPHOUSE, and MARC CROCE, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

JEREMIAH J. McCARTHY, Magistrate Judge.

Before me is the parties' joint motion [84][1] for approval of a "Binding Mediator's Award" [86]. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

This action seeks to recover unpaid wages and tips and service charges pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL") §§ 190 et seq., on behalf of the waitstaff at the Buffalo Chophouse in Buffalo, New York. Complaint [1]. On March 28, 2013 District Judge William M. Skretny conditionally certified an FLSA collective class [37].

On or about January 24, 2014 the parties executed a "Stipulation for Binding Mediation Award by Mediator Robert Weissflach" [68-1], before whom they had conducted a mediation session on December 10, 2013.[2] In relevant part, the Stipulation provided that:

- "Weissflach will make all decisions regarding resolution of all issues in the case (the Award') and his ruling will be binding and final on all parties on all issues in the case" (id., ¶ 1);

- "[t]he Award will include a Resolution Amount having high/low limitation, including attorneys' fees and costs. The high will be $480, 000 and the low will be $51, 000, all-inclusive" (id., ¶ 2);

- "plaintiffs and defendants will sign a confidentiality agreement as to the terms of settlement and as to Weissflach's Award. Weissflach's Award will contain a confidentiality provision as to the Resolution Amount.... There will be no publicity of the settlement by counsel" (id., ¶ 9);

- "The Award will only become effective if approved by the Court" (id., ¶ 11); and

- "as Weissflach is an experienced practitioner in the area of wage and hour law, there is no need for a written Opinion on the legal and factual issues in the case, and that Weissflach's Award will be Limited to the Resolution Amount and such other terms of resolution that Weissflach deems appropriate, including confidentiality (id., ¶ 15).

On February 10, 2014 the parties moved for approval of the Stipulation [68]. By Decision and Order dated February 14, 2014 [69], Judge Skretny granted the motion, finding "that the settlement procedures outlined in the parties' proposed stipulation are the product of arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel, favoring the conclusion that the decision to resolve this matter without further litigation was not tainted by coercion or overreaching.... Further, the determination of the award by a neutral mediator subject to approval by only this court will result in a judicially supervised' settlement.... This Court notes, however, that when the Mediator's award is submitted for approval, it must be accompanied by sufficient information to allow this Court to determine that it reflects a fair and reasonable compromise of disputed issues and at that there is a substantial showing of the need for confidentiality that outweighs the presumption of public access that applies to FLSA settlements". Id., ¶ 3.

Thereafter, the parties consented to conduct all further proceedings before a magistrate judge [70]. On December 5, 2014, Mr. Weissflach issued a "Binding Mediator's Award" [86]. This motion followed.

ANALYSIS

A. May the Weissflach Award Be Kept ...


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