United States District Court, D. Colorado
MICKEY L. PECK, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ENCANA OIL & GAS, INC., Defendant.
ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT AND DISMISSING THIS
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Parties' Joint Motion
to Approve Settlement Agreement. (Doc. # 67.) For the
following reasons, the Court grants the motion, approves the
confidential Settlement (Doc. # 69), and dismisses this case.
Ronald Dent commenced this action against Defendant Encana
Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. in August 2015 alleging that
Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and
the Colorado Wage Claim Act (CWCA) by failing to pay him
“time and a half” for work in excess of 40 hours
per week. (Doc. # 3.) As pertinent here, in addition to
prosecuting these claims on his own behalf, Plaintiff Dent
sought to bring his FLSA claim as a collective action. (Doc.
# 33.) The parties later stipulated to, and the Court
approved, the conditional certification of “[a]ll
current and former Completion Consultants, and all other
workers in substantially similar positions, classified as
independent contractors by Defendant between January 27, 2104
to the present, and who are not individual signatories to an
arbitration agreement with Defendant.” (Doc. # 56.)
Notice was subsequently circulated and, as pertinent here,
two Plaintiffs opted into this case on August 9, 2017. (Doc.
# 60.) After months of litigation and candid negotiations,
all three Plaintiffs and the Defendant represent that they
have reached an agreed-upon Settlement for this Court's
suit by employees 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 agreement is fair and
reasonable. See Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United
States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). Requiring
court approval of FLSA settlements effectuates the purpose of
the statute, which is to “protect certain groups of the
population from substandard wages and excessive hours... due
to the unequal bargaining power as between employer and
employee.” Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil,
324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945).
order to approve a settlement, the Court reviews the proposal
to ensure (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 a
reasonable award of attorneys' fees. Lynn's Food
Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354.
BONA FIDE DISPUTE
requesting approval of an FLSA settlement must provide the
Court with sufficient information to determine whether a bona
fide dispute exists. Dees v. Hydradry, Inc., 706
F.Supp.2d 1227, 1234 (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
employees' 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. Collins v. Sanderson Farms, Inc.,
568 F.Supp.2d 714, 718 (E.D. La. 2008). The mere existence of
an adversarial lawsuit is not enough to satisfy the bona fide
dispute requirement. Id. at 719-20.
proposed Settlement, Plaintiffs provide a thorough
description of the nature of the dispute, Defendant's
business, and the type of work performed by Plaintiffs. There
is also a clear description of the Plaintiffs'
justification for the disputed wages and Defendants'
reasons for disputing the Plaintiffs' right to additional
compensation. The Parties likewise disagree about the merits
of Plaintiffs' claims and the validity of Defendant's
defenses. Plaintiffs acknowledge that resolution of these
issues would therefore require significant litigation, with
the possibility of limited to no recovery on either side.
Court finds that a bona fide dispute exists.
FAIR AND REASONABLE
fair and reasonable, an FLSA settlement must provide adequate
compensation to the employees and must not frustrate the FLSA
policy rationales. Baker v. Vail Resorts Mgmt. Co.,
Case No. 13-CV-01649-PAB-CBS, 2014 WL 700096, at *2 (D. Colo.
Feb. 24, 2014). When determining whether a settlement is fair
and reasonable, courts weigh a number of factors, including:
(1) the extent of discovery that has taken place; (2) the
stage of the proceedings, including the complexity, expense
and likely duration of the litigation; (3) the absence of
fraud or collusion in the settlement; (4) the experience of
counsel who have represented the plaintiffs; (5) the
probability of plaintiffs' success on the merits and (6)
the amount of the settlement in relation to the potential
recovery. Hargrove v. Ryla Teleservices, Inc., Case
No. 2:11CV344, 2013 WL 1897027, at *2 (E.D. Va. Apr. 12,
2013) (citation omitted). There is a strong presumption in
favor of finding a settlement fair. Id.
Parties in this suit enjoy representation from experienced
counsel, and this Court attributes significant weight to
their professional judgment that this agreement represents a
fair and reasonable settlement of this dispute. Further, the
Court finds that this settlement is a product of arms-length
negotiations that took place over the course of months. The
settlement also delivers fair value to Plaintiffs, who will