United States District Court, S.D. New York
LUIS BARBECHO, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, et al ., Plaintiffs,
M.A. ANGELIADES, INC., et al ., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
PITMAN United States Magistrate Judge
a collective action brought under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (the "FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq., and the New York Labor Law (the "NYLL").
Plaintiffs have also asserted a breach of contract claim. The
matter is currently before me on the parties' application
to approve the settlements agreed to by eight of the more
than 33 plaintiffs (Docket Item ("D.I.")
parties have consented to my exercising plenary jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
action arises out of work performed by plaintiffs in
connection with contracts between defendants and various
public agencies, including the New York City Transit
Authority (the "NYCTA"), the New York City Housing
Authority, the New York City Department of Correction and the
New York City School Construction Authority. Plaintiffs
allege that they worked for defendants as carpenters and
laborers on these projects. The contracts required defendants
to pay plaintiffs a prevailing wage rate and required that
plaintiffs be paid at least one and one-half times their
regular rate for work in excess of forty hours per week and
for weekend work. Plaintiffs allege that they worked Monday
through Friday for forty hours and sometimes were required to
work an additional sixteen to twenty-four hours on weekends.
Plaintiffs allege that they were paid less than their regular
hourly rate for the weekend work.
2009, several of the defendants were indicted for falsifying
business records and defrauding employees by underpaying them
on four NYCTA projects. Several of the defendants pleaded
guilty to some of the charges, and a restitution fund was
established to provide compensation to those workers who were
underpaid. The restitution fund, however, was limited to the
projects that were the subject of the indictment.
Additionally, in order to receive payment from the
restitution fund, a worker was required to release all claims
against the defendants. Accordingly, many of defendants'
employees did not seek payment from the fund.
concede that almost all plaintiffs are owed some wages.
However, the parties vigorously dispute how much is owed. In
support of their contention that plaintiffs' claims for
unpaid wages after 2008 are exaggerated, defendants note that
commencing in 2008, an independent monitor was installed to
oversee defendants' payroll practices and that in 2008
training sessions for defendants' employees were
conducted at which the employees were advised of their rights
under the FLSA and NYLL. Defendants also note that the NYCTA
conducted an audit to determine what wages were owed to
employees who worked on NYCTA projects, and that audit
disclosed unpaid wages in amounts far smaller than those
claimed by plaintiffs. As additional evidence that
plaintiffs' claims are exaggerated, defendants cite
plaintiffs' interrogatory answers which defendants argue
are inconsistent with plaintiffs' present claims.
Defendants also cite worksite access records maintained in
connection with several of the projects at issue; for
security reasons, sign-in/sign-out logs were maintained at
several of the work sites at issue. Defendants claim that
these records demonstrate that some of the plaintiffs could
not have worked all the hours that they claim.
November 10, 2015, the late Honorable Miriam Goldman
Cedarbaum, United States District Judge, granted in part and
denied in part defendants' motion for partial summary
judgment. Specifically, Judge Cedarbaum granted
defendants' motion to dismiss the NYLL claims but denied
the motion to dismiss the breach of contract
Almazo v. M.A. Angeliades, Inc., 11 Civ. 1717 (MGC),
2015 WL 6965116 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2015) (Cedarbaum, D.J.),
reconsideration denied, 2016 WL 5719748 (S.D.N.Y.
Sept. 29, 2016) (Pitman, M.J.).
to Judge Cedarbaum's decision, I began conducting
day-long settlement conferences. Conferences were held on
January 15, 22, March 29, and May 16, 2016. The claims of 21
plaintiffs were settled at the conferences held in January
and March. After negotiations, four other plaintiffs agreed
to settle their claims either at or after the May 16
conference. Finally, in August 2016 and November 2016, the
following eight plaintiffs agreed to settle their claims:
parties have also agreed that defendants will pay an
additional 1/3 of the total settlement amount of the August
2016 agreement and an additional 1/6 of the total settlement
amount of the November 2016 agreement as attorneys' fees
refused to approve earlier drafts of the settlement
agreements because they each had a general release that ran
only in favor of defendants (D.I. 133). I ordered the parties
either to more narrowly define what was being released or to
submit a memorandum of law explaining why the proposed
settlements should have been approved in their present forms;
the parties opted for the former. Under the revised
settlement agreements, plaintiffs are releasing their claims
brought in this lawsuit, all claims for unpaid overtime
pursuant to the FLSA, all claims for retaliation pursuant to
the FLSA and all correlative common law claims associated
with nonpayment or underpayment of wages, including any
third-party beneficiary or breach of contract claims.
for both sides have requested that I approve these
settlements so that payments to the plaintiffs who have
settled can be made promptly.
Court approval of an FLSA settlement is appropriate
"when [the settlement] [is] reached as a result of
contested litigation to resolve bona fide
disputes." Johnson v. Brennan, No. 10 Civ.
4712, 2011 WL 4357376, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2011).
"If the proposed settlement reflects a reasonable
compromise over contested issues, the court should approve
the settlement." Id. (citing Lynn's
Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353
n.8 (11th Cir. 1982)).
Agudelo v. E & D LLC, 12 Civ. 960 (HB), 2013 WL
1401887 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 4, 2013) (Baer, D.J.)
(alterations in original). "Generally, there is a strong
presumption in favor of finding a settlement fair, [because]
the Court is generally not in as good a position as the
parties to determine the reasonableness of an FLSA
settlement." Lliguichuzhca v. Cinema 60, LLC,
948 F.Supp.2d 362, 365 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (Gorenstein, M.J.)
(internal quotation marks omitted). "Typically, courts
regard the adversarial nature of a litigated FLSA case to be
an adequate indicator of the fairness of the
settlement." Beckman v. KeyBank, N.A., 293
F.R.D. 467, 476 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (Ellis, M.J.), citing
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States,
supra, 679 F.2d at 1353-54. The presumption of
fairness in this case is bolstered by the caliber of the
party's attorneys. Based upon their performance at the
settlement conferences and in subsequent court conferences,
it is clear to me that all parties are represented by counsel
who are extremely knowledgeable regarding all issues in the
case and who are well suited to assess the risks of
litigation and the benefits of the proposed settlements.
Wolinsky v. Scholastic Inc., 900 F.Supp.2d 332, 335
(S.D.N.Y. 2012), the Honorable Jesse M. Furman, United States
District Judge, identified five factors that are relevant ...