NEW ORLEANS – A judge in the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Louisiana issued a ruling May 21 approving a settlement in a lawsuit seeking payment for unpaid overtime for a bartender at Doris Metropolitan.
Plaintiff Shannon McSwain and 11 other plaintiffs filed the collective action, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, on March 31, 2016. The suit alleged that defendants DMNO LLC, Doron Moshe Rebi–Chia, Itai Ben Eli and Itamar Levy violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 by failing to pay overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.
On April 2, 2018, the parties reached a settlement agreement with respect to McSwain’s claims with the assigned magistrate judge. On May 14, 2018, the parties jointly moved to approve the proposed settlement agreement and dismiss McSwain’s claims with prejudice. Other plaintiffs were expected to join the class, but none filed a claim within the required deadline, according to court documents.
The settlement paid to Ms. McSwain was to be based on a negotiated number of overtime hours that she allegedly worked, but for which she was not paid. A portion of the settlement was to be reimbursement for lost wages and also included damages.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan stated in her ruling that “in order to approve a settlement proposed by an employer and employees of a suit brought under the FLSA and enter a stipulated judgment, a court must determine that the settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.”
Morgan also said that when deciding whether to approve a proposed settlement, the court must assess whether the proposed settlement is the product of a bona fide dispute over the FLSA’s provisions and the settlement is fair and reasonable.
“The court finds that a bona fide dispute exists between plaintiff McSwain and defendants with regard to whether defendants violated the FLSA,” Morgan said. “The parties contested both the hours worked and compensation due.”
It was noted that counsel for the parties had exchanged relevant payroll and personnel data and time records relevant to McSwain’s claims. Morgan noted that “the parties have conducted formal discovery and undergone independent investigations of the facts and law throughout this action. The court finds this sufficient to conclude that, in this case, there was both aggressive prosecution and strenuous defense to prove a bona fide dispute.”
Morgan said that the parties have reviewed the defenses asserted by defendants. She said that “although the parties do not agree about all inferences that might be properly drawn from the undisputed facts, they submit that they are confident that continued litigation of Ms. McSwain’s claims would not produce results more economically beneficial than this stipulated compromise settlement. This factor indicates that the settlement is fair and reasonable.”
In conclusion, Morgan said, “The court finds that the proposed settlement agreement is fair and reasonable. It is ordered that the joint motion to approve settlement is granted and the parties’ settlement agreement is approved.”
As a result of the settlement, McSwain’s claims against the defendants were dismissed with prejudice, meaning that she cannot file suit concerning this issue again.
The ruling did not specify the settlement amount.
Claimants reserved their claim for attorneys’ fees and costs.