United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. TEETER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Geoffrey Geist brought suit against Aaron Handke d/b/a
Foxpoint Trucks, LLC and OTRLeasing, LLC (collectively
“Defendants”) to recover unpaid wages, liquidated
damages, costs and attorney fees under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) due to Defendants'
alleged misclassification of Plaintiff as an exempt employee.
Plaintiff also brought a claim for retaliation under the
FLSA. The parties have reached a settlement
agreement. This matter is before the Court on their Joint
Motion to Approve FLSA Settlement, filed November 13, 2018.
Doc. 82. Because the Court finds that the proposed settlement
agreement for the misclassification claim is fair and
reasonable, the motion is granted.
employees file suit against their employer to recover 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., 2011
WL 32436, at *2 (D. Kan. 2011); see also Lynn's Food
Stores v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir.
1982). The provisions of the FLSA are not subject to private
negotiation between employers and employees. See
Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1352; Dees v.
Hydradry, Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1234 (M.D. Fla.
2010); Collins v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., 568
F.Supp.2d 714, 718 (E.D. La. 2008). Requiring court approval
of FLSA settlements thus effectuates the purpose of the
FLSA-to “protect certain groups of the population from
substandard wages and excessive hours . . . due to the
unequal bargaining power as between employer and employee,
” which may “endanger[ ] national health and
well-being and the free flow of goods in interstate
commerce.” Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil,
324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945). To approve an FLSA settlement, the
district 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.
Bona Fide Dispute
requesting approval of an FLSA settlement must provide the
district court with sufficient information to determine
whether a bona fide dispute exists. See Dees, 706
F.Supp.2d at 1241. To meet this obligation, the parties
should provide the following information: (1) a description
of the nature of the dispute (e.g., a disagreement over
coverage, exemption or computation of hours worked or rate of
pay); (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 a minimum wage or overtime; (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.
there is a bona fide dispute about whether Plaintiff's
underwriting job duties were exempt from the FLSA's
overtime requirements. The Court previously conducted an
exhaustive analysis for summary judgment purposes on whether
Defendants misclassified Plaintiff as exempt under the FLSA.
Doc. 59. Specifically, the Court analyzed the nature of the
dispute, the nature of Defendants' business, the type of
work that Plaintiff performed, and the reasons Defendants
dispute Plaintiff's right to additional wages.
contends that he is entitled to no more than approximately
$21, 899.99, representing 208 hours of claimed overtime for
which he was not paid. Defendants dispute that Plaintiff is
owed any amount for unpaid overtime because his job duties
were exempt. And, even if his job duties were not exempt,
Defendants assert that Plaintiff worked much less than
alleged, such that his claimed amount due was overstated.
Based on this record, the Court finds that the parties have a
bona fide dispute.
Fair and Reasonable
determine whether a proposed settlement under the FLSA is
fair and equitable to the parties, courts regularly look at
the fairness factors that apply to a proposed class action
settlement under Rule 23(e). Tommey v. Comput. Scis.
Corp., 2015 WL 1623025, at *2 (D. Kan. 2015). These
factors include (1) whether the proposed settlement has been
fairly and honestly negotiated; (2) whether serious questions
of law and fact exist that place the ultimate outcome of the
litigation in doubt; (3) whether the value of an immediate
recovery outweighs the mere possibility of future relief
after protracted and expensive litigation; and (4) the
judgment of the parties that the settlement is fair and
reasonable. Id. In addition to these factors, courts
must also ensure that the settlement does not undermine the
purpose of the FLSA to protect employees' rights from
employers who generally wield superior bargaining power.
Valdez v. Se. Kan. Indep. Living Res. Ctr., Inc.,
2011 WL 1231159, at *3 (D. Kan. 2011).
evidence suggests that the parties fairly and honestly
negotiated the settlement. Also, the parties believe that the
settlement is fair and reasonable. The parties have agreed to
settle Plaintiff's FLSA misclassification claim for a
total of $8, 855.00. This amount includes attorney fees,
attorney expenses, wages, and liquidated damages attributed
to Plaintiff's misclassification claim. Notably, this
amount reflects a portion of Plaintiff's total claimed
damages. Based on the discovery and sworn testimony in this
case, Plaintiff's damages attributable to his FLSA
misclassification claim represent 7.7% of the total damages
that he is claiming in this lawsuit.
parties dispute the factual basis of Plaintiff's claims,
but this dispute does not undermine the fairness or
reasonableness of the settlement. Moreover, the value of
immediate recovery would likely outweigh the mere possibility
of recovery after protracted litigation. The record reflects
that the settlement is consistent with the purpose of the
FLSA. The record does not reflect a history of FLSA
non-compliance by Defendants nor any likelihood that
Plaintiff's circumstance will recur. The Court therefore
finds that the settlement is fair and reasonable.
Reasonable Attorney Fees
determine whether the negotiated amount of attorney fees is
reasonable, courts examine whether plaintiff's counsel
are adequately compensated and ensure that a conflict of
interest does not taint the amount the ...