United States District Court, D. Colorado
DENA M CANNON, JULIANA VAN TUIL, and SUZANNE BOLDEN, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
TIME WARNER NY CABLE LLC, Defendant.
ORDER APPROVING THE PARTIES' SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND DISMISSING THE CASE WITH PREJUDICE
RAYMOND P. MOORE, District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the parties' Renewed Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement and Award of Attorneys' Fees ("Renewed Joint Motion") (ECF No. 222). The parties request the Court to approve their settlement agreement which resolves all of Plaintiffs' claims. Upon consideration of all relevant matters, for the reasons stated below, the Court approves the parties' settlement agreement and, pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, dismisses the case with prejudice.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiffs are current and former customer service representatives working, or who worked, at Defendant's call center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Named Plaintiffs brought this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., and Colorado law to recover unpaid overtime compensation allegedly owed. (ECF No. 1.) On October 6, 2014, the Court conditionally certified this case as a collective action under the FLSA. (ECF No. 106.) After conducting substantial discovery, as detailed in the Renewed Joint Motion, the parties, represented by their respective counsel, engaged in arms-length settlement negotiations, reached a compromise on the claims, and resolved all their differences. Plaintiffs, with counsel's advice, have fully consented to resolving all of their claims in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and Release between Plaintiffs and Defendant executed by Plaintiffs' counsel and Defendant. (ECF No. 222-1.)
Initially, after reaching a settlement, the parties presented their "Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement and Award of Attorneys' Fees" ("Joint Motion") (ECF No. 218) to the Court for approval. Upon review of the Joint Motion, the Court held a hearing on June 17, 2015, regarding the terms and conditions of the proposed settlement and ordered the parties to provide a status report or amended settlement papers. (ECF No. 221.) Thereafter, the parties submitted the Renewed Joint Motion which is now before the Court for approval.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Stipulated settlements in FLSA cases brought by employees (or former employees) against their employer require court approval. Baker v. Vail Resorts Mgmt. Co., Case No. 13-CV-01649-PAB-CBS, 2014 WL 700096, at *1 (D. Colo. Feb. 24, 2014); see Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). Approval should be granted when: (1) the FLSA settlement is reached as a result of bona fide dispute; (2) the proposed settlement is fair and equitable to all parties concerned; and (3) the proposed settlement contains a reasonable award of attorneys' fees. Baker, 2014 WL 700096, at *1; see Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354.
A. Bona Fide Dispute
Parties who request approval of an FLSA settlement "must provide the Court with sufficient information to determine whether a bona fide dispute exists." Baker, 2014 WL 700096, at *1; Dees v. Hydradry, Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1241-42 (M.D. Fla. 2010). "To meet this obligation, the parties must present: (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 employees; (3) the employer's reasons for disputing the employee's right to a minimum wage or overtime; (4) the employees' 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." Baker, 2014 WL 700096, at *1 (citing Collins v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., 568 F.Supp.2d 714, 719-20 (E.D. La. 2008)).
In this case, the Court finds that a bona fide dispute exists. Here, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant failed to pay them overtime wages while they worked as a customer service representative at Defendant's Colorado Springs, Colorado call center. (ECF No. 1 at, e.g., ¶¶ 1-4, 19-22.) Plaintiffs allege they are owed overtime wages for work performed preparing ("booting-up") their computers prior to the beginning of their shift (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 23-31); for work performed during their unpaid breaks during their shifts (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 32-39); and for work performed after the end of their shifts (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 40-45). Plaintiffs claim that they worked 40 hours or more per week, but were paid 40 hours per week regardless of how many hours they actually worked, and are entitled to overtime for all uncompensated time. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 21, 60, 68.) Among other things, Defendant denies that it failed to pay Plaintiffs any overtime wages due; asserts its policies prohibit any hourly employee from performing work during times for which he or she is not being compensated; contends that if Plaintiffs performed any off-the-clock work, Defendant was unaware of it; and argues that the time periods for which Plaintiffs allegedly were not paid are de minimis and, therefore, are not compensable as a matter of law. (ECF No. 22, passim; No. 222, page 4.) As such, the record shows that a bona fide dispute exists.
B. Fair and Reasonable Settlement
"To be fair and reasonable, an FLSA settlement must provide adequate compensation to the employee and must not frustrate the FLSA policy rationales." Baker, 2014 WL 700096, at *2. The Court considers several factors when evaluating the fairness of a settlement: "(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." Baker, 2014 WL 700096, at *2 (citing ...