United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
PITMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before me on the parties' joint application to
approve their settlement (Unopposed Motion for Approval of
FLSA Settlement, dated Oct. 28, 2016 (Docket Item
("D.I.") 19); Settlement Agreement, filed Mar. 31,
2017 (D.I. 21)). All parties have consented to my exercising
plenary jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
parties reached their proposed settlement before I could
schedule a settlement conference, and my knowledge of the
underlying facts and the justification for the settlement is,
therefore, limited to the complaint and counsels'
representations in their motion seeking settlement approval.
formerly worked for Admore Air Conditioning Corporation
("Admore") as a bookkeeper and in general
administration and seeks, by this action, to recover unpaid
overtime premium pay and spread-of-hours pay. The action is
brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the
"FLSA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq., and the New York Labor Law. She also asserts a
claim based on defendants' alleged failure to maintain
certain payroll records.
alleges that she was employed as a bookkeeper of Admore from
April 7, 2014 until her termination in January 2016.
Plaintiff claims that between April 2014 and May 2015, she
worked at least 572 hours of overtime without compensation.
She claims that during that period, her annual salary was
$90, 000.00, her regular hourly rate was $49.45 and her
overtime rate was $74.17. Between June 2015 and her
termination, plaintiff claims she worked at least 308 hours
of overtime without compensation. Plaintiff claims that
during this later period, her annual salary was $95, 000.00,
her regular hourly rate was $52.19 and her overtime rate was
$78.29. Exclusive of liquidated or statutory damages,
plaintiff claims that she is owed approximately $67, 000.00
in unpaid overtime. Defendants contend that plaintiff is
exempt from federal and state overtime requirements and is
not, therefore, entitled to recover any damages for allegedly
unpaid overtime premium pay.
parties have agreed to a total settlement of $40, 000.00. The
parties have also agreed that $900.00 of the settlement
figure will be allocated to reimburse plaintiffs' counsel
for their out-of-pocket costs, $13, 332.00 (or approximately
34%) of the remaining $39, 100.00 will be paid to
plaintiffs' counsel as fees and the remaining $25, 768.00
will be paid to plaintiff.
previously refused to approve the settlement agreement
because the parties filed it on the public docket with the
total settlement amount redacted (Opinion and Order, dated
Mar. 28, 2017 (D.I. 20)). I ordered the parties either to
file their settlement agreement, unredacted, on the public
docket or to file a letter indicating their intention to
abandon the settlement and proceed with litigation. The
parties chose the former option.
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)).
Aqudelo 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.
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 to
an assessment of the fairness of an FLSA settlement:
In determining whether [a] proposed [FLSA] settlement is fair
and reasonable, a court should consider the totality of
circumstances, including but not limited to the following
factors: (1) the plaintiff's range of possible recovery;
(2) the extent to which the settlement will enable the
parties to avoid anticipated burdens and expenses in
establishing their respective claims and defenses; (3) the
seriousness of the litigation risks faced by the parties; (4)
whether the settlement agreement is the product of
arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel; and
(5) the possibility of fraud or collusion.
(Internal quotation marks omitted). The settlement here
satisfies these criteria.
the settlement represents approximately 59.7% of
plaintiff's alleged unpaid overtime. Defendants argue
that plaintiff was exempt from the overtime requirements and
is, therefore, entitled to no damages for overtime work. As
discussed in more detail below, given the risks this issue
presents, the settlement amount is reasonable.
the settlement will entirely avoid the burden, expense and
aggravation of litigation. The settlement was reached prior
to any extensive documentary discovery, depositions and
dispositive motions. ...