Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Alimar Security, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 1, 2017

MARCUS WILLIAMS, MICHAEL TAYLOR, and AARON BRADFORD, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, [1]Plaintiffs,
v.
ALIMAR SECURITY, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING THE PARTIES' JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT [ECF NO. 62]

          Honorable Linda V. Parker, Judge

         Plaintiffs filed this putative collective action on June 30, 2013, claiming that Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to pay its alarm response security officers (“AROs”) time and a half for overtime work. The Honorable Bernard Friedman, to whom this case originally was assigned, conditionally certified the matter as a collective action on November 21, 2013.[2] (ECF No. 19.) On April 28, 2016, Defendant filed a motion for decertification. (ECF No. 55.) Thereafter, the parties engaged in a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge David Grand, where a settlement was reached. Plaintiffs therefore filed a Motion for Approval of Class Settlement on August 16, 2016, and submitted a settlement agreement for in camera review. (ECF No. 60.) On October 31, 2016, this Court entered an order denying the motion for approval without prejudice. Presently before the Court is a joint motion seeking the Court's approval of the parties' proposed settlement. (ECF No. 62.) For the reasons that follow, the Court is granting the motion.

         I. Applicable Law

         When reviewing a proposed FLSA settlement, the court must determine whether the settlement is a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.” Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355. There are several factors courts consider in making this determination:

(1) the plaintiff's range of possible recovery; (2) the extent to which the settlement will enable the parties to avoid anticipated burdens and expenses in establishing their respective claims and defenses; (3) the seriousness of the litigation risks faced by the parties; (4) whether the settlement agreement is the product of arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel; and (5) the possibility of fraud or collusion.

Wolinsky v. Scholastic, Inc., 900 F.Supp.2d 332, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Dees v. Hydradry, Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1241 (M.D. Fla. 2010). Courts also find the inclusion of a confidentiality provision relevant to deciding whether an agreement settling FLSA claims is fair and reasonable.

         Some courts conclude that a confidentiality provision is contrary to the FLSA's purpose and the presumption of public access to any judicial document. See Steele, 2016 WL 1156744, at *5 (citing Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. FTC, 710 F.2d 1165, 1169 (6th Cir. 1983); Guareno v. Vincent Perito, Inc., No. 14cv1635, 2014 WL 4953746, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2014)). As the district court stated in Steele: “ ‘A confidentiality provision in an FLSA settlement agreement both contravenes the legislative purpose of the FLSA and undermines the Department of Labor's regulatory effort to notify employees of their FLSA rights.' ” Id. (quoting Dees, 706 F.Supp.2d at 1242). One of the FLSA's goals is “to ensure that all workers are aware of their rights.” Guareno, 2014 WL 4953746, at *1 (citing Dees, 706 F.Supp.2d at 1242). If the parties want the court to approve a settlement agreement with a confidentiality provision, it is their burden “ ‘to articulate a real and substantial interest that justifies depriving the public of access to the records that inform [the court's] decision-making process.' ” Alewel v. Dex One Serv., Inc., No. 13-2312, 2013 WL 6858504, at *4 (D. Kan. Dec. 30, 2013) (quoting Helm v. Kansas, 656 F.3d 1277, 1292 (10th Cir. 2011)).

         Finally, where the settlement agreement includes the payment of attorney's fees, the court must assess the reasonableness of that amount. Wolinsky, 900 F.Supp.2d at 336 (citing cases finding judicial review of the fee award necessary). “[T]he Court must carefully scrutinize the settlement and the circumstances in which it was reached, if only to ensure that ‘the interest of [the] plaintiffs' counsel in counsel's own compensation did not adversely affect the extent of the relief counsel procured for the clients.' ” Id. (quoting Cisek v. Nat'l Surface Cleaning, Inc., 954 F.Supp. 110, 110-11 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)).

         II. Analysis

         After reviewing the pleadings and the parties' joint motion, the Court finds that the parties' proposed settlement represents a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.” Lynn's Food Stores, Inc., 679 F.2d at 1355. First, this Court notes that in this second motion to approve the settlement, the parties have eliminated their confidentiality provision. (ECF No. 62 at Pg ID 1439.) The decision to remove the confidentiality provision reflects an understanding that such a provision runs contrary to the FLSA's purpose of protecting workers' rights. See Steele, 2016 WL 1156744, at *5 (citing Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. FTC, 710 F.2d 1165, 1169 (6th Cir. 1983); Guareno v. Vincent Perito, Inc., No. 14cv1635, 2014 WL 4953746, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2014).

         As this Court's March 16, 2016 opinion and order denying Defendant's summary judgment motion reflects, there are several genuine disputes at issue, for example: (1) whether the time Plaintiffs spent “on call” or “waiting to be engaged” constitutes working time under the FLSA and (2) whether the parties agreed to a fluctuating work week schedule. (ECF No. 62 at Pg ID 1440-41.) Due to these disputes, bona fide issues remain as to the amount of wages, if any, still owed Plaintiffs and the ultimate amount they could recover if they prevail.

         In addition to establishing there is a bona fide dispute, the Court must also examine the following factors to determine whether the settlement is reasonable:

(1) the plaintiff's range of possible recovery; (2) the extent to which the settlement will enable the parties to avoid anticipated burdens and expenses in establishing their respective claims and defenses; (3) the seriousness of the litigation risks faced by the parties; (4) whether the settlement agreement is the product of arm's-length ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.