United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
ERIC FAUBEL, DEVEON SMITH, and TRINITY UPPOLE, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
GROGG'S HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. Copenhaver, Jr. United States District Judge
is the parties' joint motion, filed March 1, 2018, for
approval of a settlement agreement and for dismissal of this
action with prejudice.
plaintiffs initiated this action in this court on April 19,
2017, charging defendant Grogg's Heating & Air
Conditioning, Inc. (“GHAC”), with alleged
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.
The plaintiffs, former employees of GHAC, claimed that GHAC
owed them and all other similarly situated individuals back
wages for unpaid meal breaks.
October 2, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a motion for
conditional certification as a collective action pursuant to
section 16(b) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). At a
hearing held before the court on November 29, 2017, and as
reflected in the court's subsequent order of December 4,
2017, the court expressed its hesitance to conditionally
certify a collective action under the facts presented. In
particular, GHAC produced evidence casting doubt on (1) the
possibility that any similarly situated individuals existed
and (2) the viability of the named plaintiffs' claims as
a general matter. Thus, the court “direct[ed] . . . the
parties . . . to identify and depose two current or former
employees of [GHAC], other than named Plaintiffs, who would
fall within the class definition if the class were
conditionally certified.” (ECF #27 1-2.)
on February 6, 2018, the parties filed a notice of settlement
in principle, and the court continued the issue of
conditional certification. The parties later filed the
pending motion, seeking approval of a settlement that would
dismiss with prejudice each of the named plaintiffs'
individual claims. Attached to the motion is the proposed
settlement agreement, signed by each party individually.
FLSA establishes federal minimum-wage, maximum-hour, and
overtime guarantees that cannot be modified by
contract.” Genesis HealthCare Corp. v.
Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 69 (2013). Doing so would thwart
the purpose of the Act, which is “to protect all
covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working
hours, ‘labor conditions [that are] detrimental to the
maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for
health, efficiency, and general well-being of
workers.'” Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight
Sys., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981) (alteration in original)
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 202(a)). Consequently, FLSA claims
for back wages can be settled in only two ways, only one of
which is relevant here: “When employees bring a private
action for back wages under the FLSA, and present to the
district court a proposed settlement, the district court may
enter a stipulated judgment after scrutinizing the settlement
for fairness.” Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v.
United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352-53 (11th Cir. 1982)
(citing Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi, 328 U.S. 108 (1946),
and Jarrard v. Southeastern Shipbuilding Corp., 163
F.2d 960, 961 (5th Cir. 1947)).
the Fourth Circuit has not yet had the occasion to endorse a
standard for approving FLSA settlements, “district
courts in this circuit typically employ the considerations
set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in Lynn's Food
Stores.” Kim v. Confidential Studio
Inc., No. PWG-15-410, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133002, at
*4 (D. Md. Aug. 21, 2017) (citing cases). As succinctly
stated by the district court in Confidential Studio,
[t]he settlement must “reflect a fair and reasonable
resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions,
” which includes findings with regard to
(1) whether there are FLSA issues actually in dispute,
(2) the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement in
light of the relevant factors from [Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure] 23, and (3) the reasonableness of the
attorneys' fees, if included in the agreement.
Id. (second alteration in original) (citing cases
and quoting Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at
delving into the three requirements for settlement approval,
the court pauses briefly to discuss the effect that a
settlement by named plaintiffs of a proposed FLSA collective
action has on potential ...