United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
TRACI MORGAN, et al. PLAINTIFFS
EL DORADO HOME CARE SERVICES, LLC, et al. DEFENDANTS
O. Hickey, United States District Judge
the Court is the parties' Second Renewed Joint Motion for
Order Granting Approval of FLSA Settlement. (ECF No. 122).
The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
February 1, 2016, Plaintiffs filed this suit, alleging that
Defendants willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq., by failing to pay them overtime compensation as
required by the FLSA. On May 13, 2016, the Court entered an
order granting conditional collective-action certification
related to Plaintiffs' claims of unpaid overtime against
Defendant El Dorado Home Services, LLC, under section 216(b)
of the FLSA, and approving the notice to be sent to
collective class members. Notice was sent to all putative
collective-action members and four people filed written
consent notices to opt into this action. On September 28,
2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended collective-action complaint
to include the additional opt-in plaintiffs.
November 21, 2017, the parties reached a tentative
settlement, as captured in a proposed Confidential Settlement
Agreement (the “Agreement”). Defendants
believe that the Agreement requires the Court's approval
because it involves FLSA claims. On December 22, 2017, the
parties filed a joint motion for approval of settlement,
asking the Court to approve their Agreement and dismiss this
case. On January 9, 2018, the Court denied the parties'
joint motion without prejudice because the motion lacked
certain necessary information for the Court to evaluate the
proposed settlement for fairness. On January 26, 2018, the
Court denied the parties' first renewed joint motion
without prejudice because the motion still lacked certain
necessary information for the Court to evaluate the proposed
settlement for fairness. On February 8, 2018, the parties
filed the instant motion with additional information to
address the concerns previously noted by the Court.
noted by the Court in its January 9, 2018, order,
“[b]efore approving an FLSA settlement, the Court must
ensure that the parties are not negotiating around the
FLSA's requirements and that the settlement represents a
fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute.”
Younger v. Ctrs. for Youth & Families, Inc., No.
4:16-cv-0170-KGB, 2017 WL 1652561, at *1 (E.D. Ark. Apr. 27,
2017). The Court previously found that a bona fide dispute
exists as to whether Plaintiffs are entitled to overtime pay
pursuant to the FLSA, and if so, the amount of unpaid wages
Plaintiffs are entitled to; as to whether Defendants
willfully violated the FLSA; and as to the number of and
accuracy of hours purportedly worked by each Plaintiff.
Court must now scrutinize the settlement for fairness. To do
so, the Court will examine the totality of the circumstances
and will consider factors such as: (1) the stage of the
litigation and the amount of discovery exchanged; (2) the
experience of counsel; (3) the probability of success on the
merits; (4) any “overreaching” by the employer in
settlement negotiations; and (5) whether the settlement was
the product of arms-length negotiations between the parties
based on the merits of the case. See Jordan v. RHD, Jr.,
Inc., No. 2:16-cv-2227-PKH, 2017 WL 3499938, at *1 (W.D.
Ark. July 24, 2017).
Court discussed in its January 26, 2018, order, the Court has
previously reviewed the above-listed factors in relation to
the joint motion and the Agreement, and found that, at this
late stage in the litigation, the parties entered into a
settlement that was the result of arms-length negotiation and
that featured no hallmarks of collusion or
“overreaching” by Defendants. The Court also
found that the parties' settlement is informed by
extensive discovery and that the settlement reflects the
case's merits and Plaintiffs' likelihood of success
at trial because Plaintiffs would receive fair compensation
under the settlement. The Court found further that the
Plaintiffs are receiving fair compensation under the
settlement and that any disparities in settlement amounts do
not give rise to concern that any Plaintiff is recovering at
the expense of the others. Accordingly, all that remains is
for the Court to scrutinize the fees and costs sought under
the Agreement for fairness.
denying the parties' first renewed motion for approval of
settlement, the Court found that it was unable to approve the
settlement because it lacked sufficient information to
evaluate certain basic aspects of the settlement. In
particular, the Court lacked information regarding
Plaintiffs' counsel's experience handling FLSA cases
to determine whether Plaintiffs' counsel's hourly
rates are consistent with the rates of other FLSA attorneys
with similar experience and qualifications in the Western
District of Arkansas. The Court also noted a lack of
information regarding the specific number of hours each of
Plaintiffs' attorneys worked on the case, such as an
itemized breakdown of each attorney's specific tasks. The
Court also lacked information regarding the specific
breakdown of costs incurred by Plaintiff's counsel in
litigating this case.
support of the instant motion, Plaintiffs submitted multiple
exhibits for in camera review, including affidavits
and itemized billing statements regarding the attorneys'
fees and costs provided by the Agreement. The affidavits and
billing statements reveal that a reasonable rate is requested
for a reasonable number of hours, and in light of the fact
that the requested fees and costs are less than Plaintiffs
might be entitled to under a lodestar determination, the
Court finds that the requested fees and costs are reasonable.
Furthermore, the Court finds that the fees and costs will not
be recovered at the expense of the Plaintiffs' wage
claims. Therefore, the Court finds that the fees and costs
provided for under the Agreement are fair and reasonable,
which weighs in favor of a determination that the
parties' proposed settlement should be approved.
reasons discussed above, the Court finds that the
parties' proposed settlement should be approved in its
entirety as fair and reasonable. Accordingly, the
parties' Second Renewed Joint Motion for Order Granting
Approval of FLSA Settlement (ECF No. 122) is hereby
GRANTED. The parties' confidential
settlement is approved and Plaintiffs' claims against
Defendants are hereby DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE. The Court shall retain jurisdiction over
the terms of the settlement agreement.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Due to the Agreement's
confidential nature, the parties filed the Agreement under