United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
KRISTOPHER DOTSON, individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
P.S. MANAGEMENT, INC., PFC, INC., P.S. II, INCORPORATED, and P.S. III, INC., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
T. Copenhaver, Jr. Senior United States District Judge
is the parties' joint motion, filed August 27, 2018, for
approval of their collective action settlement agreement.
Also pending is plaintiffs' separate motion for fees and
costs, filed August 27, 2018.
plaintiff initiated this action in this court on January 25,
2017, charging defendants with alleged violations of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §
201 et seq. and the West Virginia Wage and Maximum Hours Act,
W.Va. Code §21-5C-1 et seq. Plaintiff Kristopher Dotson,
a former employee of defendants P.S. Management, Inc. and
P.S. II, Incorporated, claimed that defendants
under-reimbursed their pizza delivery drivers for expenses
incurred while delivering pizzas to the point that their
employees' net wages fell below the minimum wage.
Id. § 216(b).
30, 2017, the parties filed a stipulation of conditional
collective action certification pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
216(b) and asked the court to accept the parties'
proposed notice to the class, ECF No. 15, which the court
approved on July 24, 2017, ECF No. 20. The plaintiff
distributed the notice of the collective action according to
the conditions set by the court, and 176 individuals filed
consents to join the collective action. The parties undertook
continuous negotiations toward settlement. They reached an
agreement on July 9, 2018 and filed a joint notice of
settlement with the court the next day. The parties later
filed the pending motion, seeking approval of the settlement.
Attached to the motion is the Settlement and Release
Agreement. Plaintiffs also filed a separate motion seeking
costs and fees to which no objection has been made. On
December 5, 2018, at the request of the court, the parties
filed a supplemental submission in support of their joint
motion. ECF No. 77.
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 Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has not yet had
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 WL 3592455 at *2 (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
Id. (second alteration in original) (citing cases
and quoting Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355).
the FLSA issues here are actually in dispute. The plaintiffs
argue that they are owed unpaid minimum wages, liquidated
damages and interest; defendants disagree. The proposed
settlement agreement states that “Defendants denied and
continue to deny the Named Plaintiff's allegations in the
Litigation . . . and denied and continue to deny that they
are liable or owe damages to anyone with respect to the
alleged facts or cause of action asserted in the
Litigation.” ECF No. 74-1, Recitals.
the relevant factors from Rule 23's assessment for
fairness and reasonableness are as follows:
(1) The extent of discovery that has taken place; (2) the
stage of the proceedings, including the complexity, expense
and likely duration of the litigation; (3) the absence of
fraud or collusion in the settlement; (4) the experience of
counsel who have represented the plaintiffs; (5) the
probability of plaintiffs' success on the merits; and (6)
the amount of the settlement in relation to the potential
Patel v. Barot,
15 F.Supp.3d 648, 656 (E.D. Va.
2014); see also Flinn v. FMC Corp.,528 F.2d 1169,
1173 (4th Cir. 1975); Irvine v. Destination Wild Dunes
Mgmt., Inc., 204 F.Supp.3d 846, 849 (D.S.C. 2016)
(listing the “opinions of class counsel and class
members after receiving notice of the settlement whether
expressed directly or ...