United States District Court, D. Kansas
WYATT CHRISTESON AND PATRICK J. HILLS Plaintiffs,
AMAZON.COM SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
KATHRYN H. VRATIL United States District Judge.
Christeson brings suit against Amazon.com Services, Inc. to
recover unpaid wages, liquidated damages, punitive damages,
costs and attorney fees under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.
On August 6, 2019, Patrick J. Hills filed a notice of consent
to join the lawsuit. Plaintiff Consent Form (Doc.
#63). This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs'
Unopposed Motion For Approval Of Settlement Agreement And
Release And Motion For Dismissal Of Lawsuit With
Prejudice (Doc. #67) filed August 9, 2019. For reasons
stated below, the Court sustains the motion in part.
And Factual Background
named plaintiff initially filed this lawsuit as a collective
action and the Court conditionally certified a class
consisting of “Christeson and seven other IT Support
Engineers who worked for Amazon at any time between January
25, 2015 and March 31, 2018.” Memorandum
And Order (Doc. #43) filed May 16, 2019 at 7;
see Complaint (Doc. #1) filed January 25, 2018.
After three unsuccessful motions for approval of a collective
action settlement agreement, attorney fees and costs and a
service award,  named plaintiff (now joined by Hills) has
decided to change courses. Plaintiffs request that the Court
(1) decertify the conditionally certified
class;(2) approve the settlement agreement
between plaintiffs and Amazon; (3) approve an attorney fee
and costs award; and (4) dismiss this action with prejudice.
the settlement agreement, Amazon will pay a total of $32,
853.16. Of that amount, Amazon will pay $6, 553.36 to
Christeson and $7, 341.28 to Hills. The parties calculated
these figures by awarding plaintiffs each $250.00 for any de
minimis time worked, plus approximately $394.00 for each
instance that plaintiffs recorded approximately 40, 49 or 55
hours in a work week. In exchange, plaintiffs will release
the FLSA claims which are specifically set forth in the
rest of the settlement fund ($18, 958.52) will go to
plaintiffs' attorney and to cover costs and expenses.
Plaintiffs request $15, 000.00 for attorney fees and $3,
958.52 for costs and expenses. Plaintiffs' counsel asserts
that he or she has spent more than 300 hours on this matter
and seeks $15, 000.00 in fees, which equates to an hourly
rate of $50.00. If the Court reduces the cost and fee award,
the parties will redistribute any remaining funds to
plaintiffs. Any Court-ordered reduction of the cost and fee
award will not affect the validity of the settlement. Amazon
reserves the right to object to the proposed cost and fee
award and subject it to testing through the adversarial
process, but it does not actually object to plaintiffs'
request for a cost and fee award of $18, 958.52.
Defendant's Response To Plaintiffs' Request For
Attorneys' Fees (Doc. #68) filed August 9, 2019 at
Motion To Approve Settlement
employees file suit against their employer under the FLSA,
the parties must present any proposed settlement to the Court
for review and a determination whether the settlement is fair
and reasonable. McCaffrey v. Mortgage 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). 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 (citing Brooklyn Sav. Bank
v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706-07); 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). To allow such waivers
would nullify the effectiveness of the Act. Collins,
568 F.Supp.2d at 712. Requiring the Court to approve such
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, 324 U.S. at
706. 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
Bona Fide Dispute
previous orders, the Court found a bona fide dispute, so now
it must only determine whether the settlement is fair and
reasonable and whether the requested attorney fees and costs
are reasonable. Memorandum And Order (Doc. #35)
filed January 29, 2019 at 11; Memorandum And Order
(Doc. #43) at 8.
Fair And Reasonable
fair and reasonable, an FLSA settlement must be reasonable to
the employees and must not frustrate FLSA policies. When
determining the reasonableness of a settlement, the framework
for evaluating the fairness of a class action settlement is
instructive. McCaffrey, 2011 WL 32436, at *2. The
Tenth Circuit considers the following factors when deciding
whether to approve a class action settlement under Rule
23(e), Fed. R. Civ. P.: (1) whether the parties fairly and
honestly negotiated the settlement; (2) whether serious
questions of law and fact exist which 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 litigation; and (4) the
judgment of the parties that the settlement is fair and
reasonable. In its previous order, the Court determined that
these four factors weigh in favor of approving the
settlement. See Memorandum And Order (Doc. #35)
filed January 29, 2019 at 11-12. That conclusion still
addition to these factors, the Court 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. To do so, the Court
considers the following factors: (1) presence of employees
situated similarly to plaintiff, (2) a likelihood that
plaintiffs' circumstances will recur and (3) a history of
FLSA non-compliance by defendant or others in defendant's
industry. Dees, 706 F.Supp.2d at 1244.
record reflects that the settlement is consistent with the
purpose of the FLSA. Although the record indicates that other
employees are situated similarly to plaintiffs, those
individuals are free to pursue their own claims in separate
actions. In addition, the record suggests no reason why
similar conduct is likely to recur. Finally, the record does
not reflect a history of FLSA non-compliance by defendant or
others in its industry.
Court therefore finds that the settlement is fair and