United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF United States District Judge
Iris Flores brings this action under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (the “FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (the
“NYLL”). (Compl. (Doc. No. 1).) The parties have
entered into a settlement agreement, and they now ask that
the Court approve the agreement as “a reasonable
compromise of disputed issues . . . .” Le v. SITA
Info. Networking Computing, USA, Inc., No. 07-CV-86
(JS), 2008 WL 724155, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also Cheeks v.
Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F.3d 199, 206 (2d Cir.
2015) (“[S]tipulated dismissals settling FLSA claims
with prejudice require the approval of the district court . .
settlement agreement provides for a total payment of $42, 500
in settlement, with $21, 500 payable to Flores and $21, 000
payable to Flores' counsel as fees and costs. (Settlement
Agreement and Release (“Settlement Agreement”)
(Doc. No. 18-1) at ¶ 2.) The settlement amount of $21,
500 in wages and liquid damages is comparable to the $16, 325
in unpaid wages that Flores calculated she is owed, and is to
be paid in installments to ensure compliance. (Mot.
Settlement Approval (Doc. No. 18) at 1-2.)
short, the settlement amount of $21, 500 is a reasonable
compromise of the disputed issues between the parties. It is
the result of arms-length negotiations and reflects the
“desire to avoid the costs, risks, and delays
associated with litigation and to put to rest any and all
possible disputes between the parties.” (Id.
approving the settlement amount of attorney's fees, a
district court must determine whether the fees are
reasonable. See Goldberger v. Integrated Res., Inc.
209 F.3d 43, 47 (2d Cir. 2000). Under a fee-shifting statute
like the FLSA, an award of legal fees goes to the plaintiff;
however, the attorney's right to legal fees comes from
the retainer agreement - the private contract between an
attorney and client. See Venegas v. Mitchell, 495
U.S. 82, 87-88 (1990).
support the settlement component of $21, 000 in legal fees,
Flores's attorney, Adbul Hassan, cites Venegas v.
Mitchell, 495 U.S. 82 (1990). In Venegas, the
court noted that an award of legal fees under a fee-shifting
statute like the FLSA goes to the plaintiff; however, an
attorney has a right to those legal fees as a result of the
retainer agreement - the private contract between an attorney
and client. See Venegas, 495 U.S. at 87-88. An
attorney's fees pursuant to a retainer agreement may
exceed the lodestar due to the client under a fee-shifting
statute. Venegas, 495 U.S. at 89-90. Here,
Hassan's contingent fee contract with Flores allows for:
(a) A reasonable percentage fee which is one-third (1/3) of
all sums recovered on Client's behalf; or
(b) A reasonable hourly fee which is the amount of
Attorney's hourly rates as laid out below times the
number of hours spent by the Attorney on Client's behalf;
(c) A separate recovery of fees such as where a court or
other tribunal awards attorney's fees or where a
defendant(s) settles a demand for fees.
(Suppl. Mot. (Doc. No. 19) at 2-3.) Nevertheless, “a
fee award must balance the public policy of enforcing the
FLSA with the ‘overarching concern for
moderation.'” Monserrate v. Tequipment,
Inc., No. 11-CV-6090 (RML), 2012 WL 5830557, at *4
(E.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2012) (quoting Goldberger v.
Integrated Res., Inc. 209 F.3d 43, 53 (2d Cir. 2000));
see also Dajbabic v. Rick's Cafe, 995 F.Supp.2d
210, 212 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (“Congress's intent was
decidedly not . . . to create an incentive for counsel to
prioritize their interests above those of their clients . . .
.”). “The defendant is not . . . required to pay
the amount called for in a contingent-fee contract if it is
more than a reasonable fee calculated in the usual
way.” Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 93
(1989); see also Osterweil v. Bartlett, 92 F.Supp.3d
14, 26 (N.D.N.Y. 2015) (reducing the $1, 100/hour fee of Paul
Clement, a well-respected Supreme Court litigator, because
“[t]he non-prevailing party should not be required to
pay for a limousine when a sedan could have done the
job”) (quoting Simmons v. N.Y.C. Transit
Auth., 575 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2009)).
lodestar method, which requires taking the product of a
reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number of hours
required by the case, “yields a fee that is
presumptively sufficient” to “induce a capable
attorney to undertake the representation of a meritorious
civil rights case.” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel.
Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 552 (2010). Hassan represents that a
$450 per hour lodestar rate is appropriate, given his
expertise, experience, and reputation. (Suppl. Mot. at 3.)
Hassan further represents that he has fifteen years of
experience as a solo practitioner and has litigated more than
300 employment or wage cases in federal courts in New York.
(Mot. Settlement Approval at 2.) Attorneys with similar
levels of experience are typically awarded between $300 and
$400 per hour. See Jean v. Auto & Tire Spot
Corp., No. 09-CV-5394 (ARR) (RLM), 2013 WL 2322834, at
*6 (E.D.N.Y. May 28, 2013) (finding that the request for an
hourly rate of $450 from an attorney with more than 15
years' experience as a litigator was higher than the
rates typically awarded to experienced attorneys handling
FLSA cases, which usually range from $300 to $400 per hour)
at the hourly rate of $450, the lodestar figure appropriate
for Hassan's 94 hours of labor is $42, 300. If
Hassan's lodestar figure were to be calculated at the
low-end hourly rate of $300, it would come to $28, 200. As
requested in the settlement agreement, the $21, 000 in legal
fees - reduced by $1, 129.50 in costs - comes to the
equivalent of an hourly rate of $211.38. This hourly rate of
$211.38 is below the accepted range for experienced
practitioners in Hassan's position, is far below the