United States District Court, D. Colorado
ALAN THOMPSON, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
QWEST CORPORATION dba CENTURYLINK QC, and CENTURYTEL SERVICE GROUP, LLC Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR FLSA SETTLEMENT
William J. Martinez, United States District Judge
a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq. Plaintiff Alan Thompson was an employee of
Defendants under the title “Video Engineer II.”
Thompson claims that he and his fellow Video Engineer II
employees (“VE2s”) were required to work overtime
but were not paid time-and-a-half for those overtime hours.
Four other VE2s have also joined this lawsuit. (See
ECF Nos. 4-1, 4-2, 6-1, 12-1.) Plaintiff filed a Motion for
FLSA Conditional Collective Action Certification and Notice
(ECF No. 34), which Defendants oppose (ECF No. 36).
long after Defendants filed their opposition, Plaintiff filed
a notice of settlement. (ECF No. 37.) A few weeks later, the
Plaintiff filed an Unopposed Motion for FLSA Settlement
Approval (“Settlement Motion”) (ECF No. 40),
which is the motion currently before the Court.
basic terms of the Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 40-1) are as
• A total payout from Defendants of $275, 000.
• Attorneys' fees to Plaintiff's counsel of
one-third of that payout, i.e., $91, 666.67.
• Expenses to Plaintiff's counsel of $510.
• A service award to Plaintiff Thompson of $5, 000.
• Distribution of the remaining money, “estimated
to equal no less than $175, 323.33” (ECF No. 40 at 5),
among twenty-eight VE2s, which includes Plaintiff Thompson,
the four other VE2s who also joined this suit, and
twenty-three others that could have opted in. Each of these
individuals will receive a minimum payment of $500, plus his
or her share of the net settlement amount calculated based on
the individual's number of work weeks since three years
before this lawsuit started and the individual's average
weekly compensation during that time. On average, each
individual who accepts the settlement will receive $6, 262.
• Any person who chooses to reject the settlement will
retain his or her own FLSA claims and can bring them in a
Court will refer to these terms as the “Proposed
Court understands that certain recent decisions, including
from this District, have held that FLSA settlements do not
require judicial approval. See Martinez v. Bohls Bearing
Equip. Co., 361 F.Supp.2d 608 (W.D. Tex. 2005); see
also Ruiz et al. v. Act Fast Delivery of Colorado, Inc., et
al., Case No. 14-cv-870-MSK-NYW, ECF No. 132 (D. Colo.,
Jan. 9, 2017). These decisions generally question the
correctness of the holding in Lynn's Food Stores,
Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir.
1982), that the FLSA prohibits private compromise of wage
claims. Lynn's Food is the authority on which
most courts, including this one, have relied as the basis for
exercising authority over FLSA settlements. See,
e.g., Stransky et al. v. HealthONE of Denver,
Inc., Case No. 11-cv-2888-WJM-MJW, ECF No. 326 (D.
Colo., Nov. 10, 2015).
Lynn's Food, courts employ procedures analogous
to Rule 23 class action settlements. See Whittington v.
Taco Bell of Am., Inc., 2013 WL 6022972, at *4 (D. Colo.
Nov. 13, 2013). One might assume that Rule 23 procedures have
been imported to the FLSA settlement context because FLSA
claims may be brought as collective actions, which are
somewhat similar to class actions. However, such an
assumption is probably mistaken. The reasoning of
Lynn's Food applies equally well to an
individual settlement of an FLSA claim as it might to a
collective action. Lynn's Food concludes that a
settlement for less than the full value of the wages and
liquidated damages available under the FLSA is essentially a
waiver of FLSA rights, and Congress did not intend FLSA
claims to be waivable in any sense. 679 F.2d at 1352.
concluded as much, Lynn's Food might have
stopped there and concluded that FLSA settlements are
prohibited in all circumstances. However, Lynn's
Food drew upon a distinction it saw in Supreme Court
case law “between a settlement agreement and a
stipulated judgment entered in the adversarial context of an
employees' suit for FLSA wages.” Id. at
1353 n.8. Based on this distinction, Lynn's Food
concluded that “a district court may enter a stipulated
judgment after scrutinizing the settlement for
fairness.” Id. at 1353; see also id.
at 1355 (“there is only one context in which
compromises of FLSA back wage or liquidated damage claims may
be allowed: a stipulated judgment entered by a court which
has determined that a settlement proposed by an employer and
employees, in a suit brought by the employees under the FLSA,
is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute
over FLSA provisions”). Since then, L ...