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Escort v. Princeton Information Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 30, 2017

HOPE ESCORT, ET AL., Plaintiffs,

          Andrew R. Frisch Morgan & Morgan, P.A. Counsel for Plaintiffs


          Vernon S. Broderick United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Hope Escort and Anthony Barratt bring this action against Defendants Citigroup, Inc., Citibank, N.A., Citigroup Technology, Inc., Baha Industries Corp. d/b/a Open Systems Technologies, and Princeton Information Ltd. (collectively “Defendants”) on behalf of themselves and a putative class of similarly situated employees of Defendants. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to pay them overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (the “FLSA”), and New York Labor Law § 190 et seq. The parties reached a settlement. Before me is Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for: (1) preliminary approval of a class settlement agreement; (2) conditional certification of the proposed class; (3) approval of the proposed notice of the settlement; and (4) appointment of class counsel. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED as to requests (1), (2), and (4), and DENIED without prejudice as to request (3).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs and members of the settlement class are current and former employees of various third-party staffing vendors who performed work on behalf of an affiliate of Defendant Citigroup Inc. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-48.)[1] Plaintiffs and members of the settlement class worked as “Know Your Customer Analysts” between June 10, 2009 and the present. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Citigroup Inc. and various third-party staffing vendors violated the FLSA and wage and hour laws of New York by failing to pay them overtime wages for all hours worked in excess of 40 in all workweeks. (Id. . ¶ 1.)

         Plaintiff Hope Escort commenced this action by filing her Complaint on June 10, 2015. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff Anthony Barratt joined the action as a named plaintiff on August 5. (Doc. 20.) On September 14, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint. (Doc. 27.) Between September 28 and November 10, Defendants filed their Answers. (Docs. 31, 33, 48.) Defendant Princeton Information Ltd. also filed Counterclaims against Plaintiff Escort alleging conversion and unjust enrichment, (Doc. 33), and Plaintiff Escort filed her Answer to the Counterclaims on December 10, (Doc. 51).

         I held a status conference on December 11 at which I granted the parties' request for a 60 day stay of all proceedings to facilitate settlement negotiations. (Doc. 52.) On January 4, 2016, the parties met for an in-person settlement conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 53.)

         On April 11, 2016, the parties reported that they had settled. (Doc. 64.) After receiving two extensions of time, (Docs. 67, 69), on June 17, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion, (Doc. 70), which is unopposed by Defendants.

         IL Discussion

         A. Preliminary Approval of the Class Settlement

         District courts have discretion to approve proposed class action settlements. Maywalt v. Parker & Parsley Petroleum Co., 67 F.3d 1072, 1079 (2d Cir. 1995). The parties and their counsel are in a unique position to assess the potential risks of litigation, and thus district courts in exercising their discretion often give weight to the fact that the parties have chosen to settle. See Yuzary v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A, No. 12-CV-3693, 2013 WL 1832181, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2013).

         Review of a proposed settlement generally involves preliminary approval followed by a fairness hearing. Silver v. 31 Great Jones Rest., No. 11 CV 7442 (KMW)(DCF), 2013 WL 208918, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2013). To grant preliminary approval, a court need only find “probable cause to submit the [settlement] proposal to class members and hold a full-scale hearing as to its fairness.” In re Traffic Exec. Ass 'n-E R.R.s, 627 F.2d 631, 634 (2d Cir. 1980) (internal quotation marks omitted). Preliminary approval is typically granted “where the proposed settlement appears to be the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations, has no obvious deficiencies, does not improperly grant preferential treatment to class representatives or segments of the class and falls within the range of possible approval.” Silver, 2013 WL 208918, at *1 (quoting In re Initial Pub. Offering Sec. Litig., 226 F.R.D. 186, 191 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)) (internal alteration omitted).

         Having reviewed Plaintiffs' submissions, including the Settlement Agreement[2] and the Declaration of Andrew Frisch, I conclude that the settlement is the result of substantial investigative efforts, (Frisch. Decl. ¶¶ 32-42;[3] Pls.' Mem. 10-12), arm's length negotiations, (Frisch. Decl. ¶¶ 43-47; Pls.' Mem. 12), and that its terms are within the range of possible settlement approval, (Frisch. Decl. ¶ 54).

         B. Conditional Certification of the Proposed Class and Appointment of Class Counsel, Class ...

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