United States District Court, D. Colorado
BRENDA ANDERSON, AMY BRIDGES, ANDREA DALY, DAVID FARR, DANIELLE GASTON, AMANDA GETSKOW, JOSLIN GUTZKE, CANDACE HARVEY, JENNIFER HERMANNS, ELLEN LEJEUNE, MICHAEL MARTINEZ, JENNIFER MATTHEWS, JESSICA MCCASLAND, KHRISTEN SALAZAR, DAVID SCHNEIDER, JAMES TALMADGE, JOSEPH TRUJILLO, CHYRISE BAY, as executor of the Estate of Paul Voit, and LEAH GAIDE, Plaintiffs,
WALGREEN CO., d/b/a Walgreens, Defendant.
Raymond P. Moore, United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on the parties’ (1) “joint motion for the Court’s approval of their settlement agreement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (‘FSLA’)[, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., ] and for dismissal of this lawsuit with prejudice” (“Motion for Settlement Approval”) (ECF No. 25); and (2) “Joint Motion to file the Parties’ Confidential Settlement Agreement under Seal under a Level 1 Restriction for the Court’s approval pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act” (“Motion to Restrict”) (ECF No. 27). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Settlement Approval and DENIES the Motion to Restrict.
Plaintiffs bring this action under the FLSA against Defendant for Defendant’s alleged “failure to pay Plaintiffs overtime compensation for the hours that Plaintiffs worked off the clock for each single workweek.” (ECF No. 17 ¶ 2.) On August 21, 2015, the parties announced a settlement has been reached in this matter and filed a “joint motion for the Court’s approval of [the parties’] settlement agreement under [the FLSA] and for dismissal of this lawsuit with prejudice.” (ECF No. 25 at 1-2.) On September 2, 2015, the Court ordered the parties to file their settlement agreement in compliance with Local Civil Rule 7.2. (ECF No. 26.) On September 8, 2015, the parties filed their Motion to Restrict. (ECF No. 27 at 1-2.) On November 12, 2015, the Court ordered the parties to file a joint-supplemental brief in support of their Motion for Settlement Approval. (ECF No. 30.) On November 30, 2015, the parties submitted a joint-supplemental brief (ECF No. 33) in support of their Motion for Settlement Approval. On December 15, 2015, the Court held a fairness hearing with respect to the parties’ Motion for Settlement Approval and Motion to Restrict. (ECF No. 38.) The Court ordered the parties to file a joint-status report addressing the Court’s concerns with restricting the parties’ settlement agreement from public access. (ECF No. 38.) On January 4, 2016, the parties filed a joint-status report requesting that the Motion to Restrict “be withdrawn.” (ECF No. 39 at 1.) The parties request that the Court approve the parties’ settlement agreement. (ECF No. 39 at 2.)
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Restricting the Public’s Access to Documents
“‘Courts have long recognized a common-law right of access to judicial records, ’ but this right ‘is not absolute.’” JetAway Aviation, LLC v. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs of Cty. of Montrose, Colo., 754 F.3d 824, 826 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir. 2007)). Courts may exercise discretion and restrict a public’s right to access judicial records if that “‘right of access is outweighed by competing interests.’” Id. (quoting Helm v. Kansas, 656 F.3d 1277, 1292 (10th Cir. 2011)). In exercising that discretion, the court “‘weigh[s] the interests of the public, which are presumptively paramount, against those advanced by the parties.’” United States v. Dillard, 795 F.3d 1191, 1205 (10th Cir. 2015) (quoting Crystal Grower’s Corp. v. Dobbins, 616 F.2d 458, 461 (10th Cir. 1980)).
The presumption against restriction may be overcome if the party seeking to restrict access to records “articulate[s] a real and substantial interest that justifies depriving the public of access to the records that inform [the court’s] decision-making process.” JetAway, 754 F.3d at 826 (quotation marks and citation omitted); Pine Tele. Co. v. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., 617 F. App’x 846, 852 (10th Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (showing of “significant interest” required). “[A] generalized allusion to confidential information” is insufficient. JetAway, 754 F.3d at 827. As is the bare reliance on the existence of a protective order pursuant to which the documents were filed. JetAway, 754 F.3d at 826. However, a sufficient showing to overcome the presumption may be found where the records contain trade secrets, Alcatel-Lucent, 617 F. App’x at 852; contain “business information that might harm a litigant’s competitive standing, ” Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978); contain information which “could harm the competitive interests of third parties, ” Hershey v. ExxonMobil Oil Corp., 550 F. App’x 566, 574 (10th Cir. 2013) (unpublished); or contain private or personally identifiable information, Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2, or otherwise invade privacy interests, Huddleson v. City of Pueblo, Colo., 270 F.R.D. 635, 637 (D. Colo. 2010), such as personal medical information, Dillard, 795 F.3d at 1205. “[T]he question of limiting access is necessarily fact-bound, [therefore] there can be no comprehensive formula for decisionmaking.” United States v. Hickey, 767 F.2d 705, 708 (10th Cir. 1985) (citing Nixon, 435 U.S. at 599). Instead, “the decision as to access is one best left to the sound discretion of the trial court, a discretion to be exercised in light of the relevant facts and circumstances of the particular case.” Nixon, 435 U.S. at 599.
The Court’s review is also guided by its local rules. Pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.2, a motion to restrict public access to documents filed with the Court must: (1) identify the documents for which restriction is sought; (2) address the interest to be protected and why such interest outweighs the presumption of public access; (3) identify a clearly defined and serious injury that would result if access is not restricted; (4) explain why no alternative to restriction is practicable or why only restriction will adequately protect the interest in question; and (5) identify the level of restriction sought. The Court will address each requirement in turn as to the document at issue.
B. FLSA Settlement Approval
Courts have held that settlements of FLSA actions such as this one may require court approval. Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982); Baker v. Vail Resorts Mgmt. Co., Case No. 13-CV-01649, 2014 WL 700096, at *1 (D. Colo. Feb. 24, 2014). 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. Lynn’s Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354; Baker, 2014 WL 700096 at *1.
A. Motion to Restrict
For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the Motion to Restrict (ECF No. 27) and unrestricts the parties’ ...