United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND JOINT STIPULATION OF DISMISSAL WITH
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court is the parties' Joint Motion for
Approval of Settlement Agreement and Joint Stipulation of
Dismissal With Prejudice (“Joint Motion”). [ECF
No. 212]. For the following reasons, the Joint Motion [ECF
No. 212] is GRANTED.
October 28, 2013, Plaintiff Joshua Drexler
(“Plaintiff”) filed this action against
Defendants TEL NEXX, Inc., Tokyo Electron U.S. Holdings,
Inc., Tokyo Electron America, Inc., Barry Mayer, Thomas
Walsh, Cristina Chu, and Rezwan Lateef
(“Defendants”) asserting claims under the FLSA
and state law. [ECF Nos. 1-2, 1-3]. On November 25, 2013,
Defendants removed this action to federal court. [ECF No. 1].
On August 28, 2015, Judge Woodlock granted in part and denied
in part Defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissed
Plaintiff's state law claims. [ECF No. 56]. The case
proceeded through discovery, and the parties filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. [ECF Nos. 83, 92, 94, 99,
104, 110]. On July 20, 2017, Chief Judge Saris allowed
Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the remaining
FLSA claims. [ECF No. 172]. Plaintiff appealed, and the First
Circuit vacated and remanded the summary judgment order
“for further proceedings to further develop the facts
necessary to determine whether the administrative exemption
applies . . . .” [ECF Nos. 178, 184].
remand from the First Circuit, the parties reached a proposed
settlement (“Settlement”). [ECF No. 212-1]. On
August 12, 2019, the Court permitted the parties to file
their proposed Settlement under seal. [ECF No. 211]. On
August 16, 2019, the parties filed the instant Joint Motion.
[ECF No. 212]. The essential terms of the Settlement are that
Defendants will pay Plaintiff an agreed-upon sum in exchange
for his release of the FLSA claim asserted in this action and
any and all other claims arising from his employment by
Defendants. See [ECF No. 212-1 at 3-6]. The parties
also have agreed to keep the Settlement confidential.
[Id. at 6-7]. The Settlement does not contemplate
the payment of attorney's fees.
seeking to privately settle FLSA claims require the approval
of either the Department of Labor or the district court.
See Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F.3d
199, 206 (2d Cir. 2015) (“[S]tipulated dismissals
settling FLSA claims with prejudice require the approval of
the district court or the [Department of Labor] to take
effect.”); Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. By
& Through U.S. Dep't of Labor, Emp't Standards
Admin., Wage & Hour Div., 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th
Cir. 1982) (permitting district court to enter a stipulated
judgment after “scrutinizing the settlement for
fairness”). The Court may approve a proposed settlement
upon a finding that all parties to the action have agreed to
it and that it represents a “fair and reasonable
resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA
provisions.” Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d
at 1355; Binienda v. Atwells Realty Corp., No.
15-cv-00253-WES, 2018 WL 6266784, at *1 (D.R.I. Nov. 30,
2018) (“The Court may approve a joint motion to approve
the settlement of FLSA claims upon a finding that all parties
to the action have agreed to it, and that it represents a
‘fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute
over FLSA provisions.'” (quoting Lynn's
Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1355)).
Bona Fide FLSA Dispute
pleadings and record before the Court demonstrate that a bona
fide dispute exists concerning Defendants' classification
of Plaintiff as exempt from overtime wages pursuant to the
administrative exemption. See, e.g., [ECF No. 184 at
3-6 (summarizing legal and factual dispute concerning whether
Plaintiff was exempt from overtime wages)]. Defendants
employed Plaintiff as a technical writer, first as an
independent contractor and later as a full-time salaried
employee. [ECF No. 172 at 3-4]. Plaintiff represents that he
spent as much as eighty percent of his time on developing or
revising technical manuals and argues that he was not
properly classified as an administrative employee as a
result. [Id. at 6; ECF No. 184 at 3-4]. Plaintiff
estimates that he worked in excess of 3, 800 hours of unpaid
overtime between October 2010 and April 2013. [ECF No. 1-3
¶ 317]. Defendants deny that Plaintiff was misclassified
as an exempt employee. See [ECF No. 61 ¶¶
292-318; ECF No. 104 at 1]. Thus, a bona fide dispute exists.
Fair and Reasonable Settlement
determine whether a proposed settlement is fair and
reasonable courts consider the “totality of the
circumstances, ” which may include such factors as
(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.
Singleton v. AT&T Mobility Servs., LLC, 146
F.Supp.3d 258, 260-61 (D. Mass. 2015) (quoting Wolinsky
v. Scholastic Inc., 900 F.Supp.2d 332, 335-36 (S.D.N.Y.
factors collectively favor approving the Settlement here. The
Settlement falls within Plaintiff's range of possible
recovery, as presented in the pleadings and as discussed with
the Court at the May 9, 2019 status conference. See
[ECF Nos. 1, 198]. Because this action was not brought as a
collective action, the Court has no concerns about whether
absent class members are receiving adequate value for their
claims. The Settlement also will enable the parties to avoid
the considerable expense of trial, which was imminent and had
been scheduled to begin in July 2019. See [ECF No.
199]. Furthermore, the Settlement is the product of extensive
arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel
following discovery and litigation through summary judgment.
See [ECF No. 212 ¶ 5]. Plaintiff, who had ably