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Scott v. Utility Partners of America, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 6, 2017

BYRON SCOTT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UTILITY PARTNERS OF AMERICA, LLC, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          KATHRYN H. VRATIL United States District Judge.

         Byron Scott and Robert Jackson bring putative class claims for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Kansas Wage Payment Act (“KWPA”), K.S.A. § 44-313 et seq., breach of contract and quantum meruit. See Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (Doc. #67) filed April 16, 2015. This matter is before the Court on the Renewed Unopposed Motion Of Rule 216(b) Plaintiffs For Leave To Be Joined In As Named Plaintiffs And Memorandum In Support Thereof (Doc. #105) and the parties' Second Joint Motion To Approve FLSA Settlement Agreement (Doc. #106), both filed May 16, 2016. For reasons stated below, the Court sustains both motions.

         Factual Background

         On May 22, 2013, plaintiffs filed suit. See Complaint (Doc. #1). On May 30, 2014, plaintiffs filed a motion for conditional certification of claims under the FLSA. See Plaintiffs' Motion For Conditional Certification Of Class Claims Under § 216(b) Of The FLSA (Doc. #45).[1] On September 12, 2014, the Court conditionally certified a collective action on the FLSA claims. See Memorandum And Order (Doc. #56) at 1-6.

         On December 22, 2014, plaintiffs sent notice of the collective action to all parties whose names and addresses were known at the time. See Certificate Of Service (Doc. #57) filed January 4, 2015. The notice informed potential class members that they must opt in to join the class and that if they did nothing, they would not share in any money or benefits that might be awarded in the case. See Exhibit 1 to Certificate Of Service (Doc. #57). Before plaintiffs' counsel sent written notice of the lawsuit, Robert Jenkins, Shelly McCullough, Rick McClanahan, Wayne Frazier, David Kimball, Scott Alan Cowan, Carlton Brackett, Duston Murdock and Jason Todd opted to join the suit. Based on the class notice, Jonathan McBratney and Clayton Schratter also opted to join the suit. A twelfth individual, Adrian Lopez, initially asked to opt in, but later advised plaintiffs' counsel that he no longer wished to participate. The parties agreed that “although [] Lopez may be removed from this matter as a plaintiff, [he] will retain all rights to claims he may have in this lawsuit, if any, as an opt-in plaintiff.” Unopposed Motion & Memorandum In Support Of Plaintiff Adrian Lopez's Dismissal As A Plaintiff (Doc. #54) filed August 18, 2014 at 1; see Order (Doc. #55) filed September 9, 2014 (Lopez shall be dismissed as plaintiff but shall retain all rights he may have as opt-in plaintiff).

         On November 11, 2015, the parties mediated the case and reached a settlement. See ADR Report (Doc. #93) filed December 4, 2015. On May 4, 2016, the Court overruled the Unopposed Motion Of Rule 216(b) Plaintiffs For Leave To Be Joined In As Named Plaintiffs (Doc. #98) filed February 4, 2016 and the Joint Motion To Approve FLSA Settlement Agreement (Doc. #99) filed February 8, 2016. The Court overruled plaintiffs' motions because the motions had not explained why Lopez, who appeared to be an opt-in plaintiff and had a right to share in the proposed settlement funds, was not included in the settlement. See Order (Doc. #104) filed May 4, 2016. In the present motions, plaintiffs clarify that on multiple occasions, counsel has explained to Lopez his rights. Plaintiffs reiterate that Lopez does not want to further participate in this ligation. Memorandum In Support Of Joint Motion To Approve Settlement Agreement (Doc. #107) at 5; Renewed Unopposed Motion Of Rule 216(b) Plaintiffs For Leave To Be Joined In As Named Plaintiffs And Memorandum In Support Thereof (Doc. #105) at 2; Affidavit Of Phillip M. Murphy II (Doc. #105-1) filed May 16, 2016, ¶¶ 1-25.

         Analysis

         I. Unopposed Motion To Join Individuals As Named Plaintiffs

         All plaintiffs who have joined in this suit have been active participants in the case. In addition, all named plaintiffs and opt-in plaintiffs have signed the settlement agreement and release.[2]For substantially the reasons stated in the Renewed Unopposed Motion Of Rule 216(b) Plaintiffs For Leave To Be Joined In As Named Plaintiffs And Memorandum In Support Thereof (Doc. #105), the Court sustains plaintiffs' motion to join the opt-in individuals as named plaintiffs.

         II. Joint Motion To Approve Settlement

         When employees file suit against their employer to recover back wages under the FLSA, the parties must present any proposed settlement to the district court for review and a determination of whether the settlement is fair and reasonable. McCaffrey v. Mortg. Sources, Corp., No. 08-2660-KHV, 2011 WL 32436, at *2 (D. Kan. Jan. 5, 2011); see Lynn's Food Stores v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). To approve an FLSA settlement, the Court must find that (1) the litigation involves a bona fide dispute, (2) the proposed settlement is fair and equitable to all parties concerned and (3) the proposed settlement contains an award of reasonable attorney fees. See McCaffrey, 2011 WL 32436, at *2; Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354.

         A. Bona Fide Dispute

         To show a bona fide dispute, the parties ordinarily provide the following information: (1) a description of the nature of the dispute; (2) a description of the employer's business and the type of work performed by the employee; (3) the employer's reasons for disputing the employee's right to the disputed compensation; (4) the employee's justification for the disputed wages; and (5) if the parties dispute the computation of wages owed, each party's estimate of the number of hours worked and the applicable wage. McCaffrey, 2011 WL 32436, at *2.

         The parties have demonstrated a bona fide dispute. From 2011 to 2013, plaintiffs worked for defendants as water meter installers and electric meter installers. The parties dispute whether plaintiffs had to work unpaid time before and after their shifts and whether defendants required them to work through their lunch break without pay. Plaintiffs assert that each day, defendants failed to pay them for loading and unloading their work vans (some 15 to 30 minutes before and after each shift) and required them to work through lunch without pay (30 minutes). Defendants claim that they accurately accounted for plaintiffs' time and that they do not owe plaintiffs additional wages. The parties also dispute whether plaintiffs were entitled to a higher ...


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