United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SETTLEMENT OF FLSA CLAIMS Re:
Dkt. No. 43
MARIA-ELENA JAMES, United States Magistrate Judge
Jose Gonzalez (“Plaintiff”) and Defendants
Fallanghina, LLC dba Paisan Osteria (“Paisan”);
Longbranch Berkeley LLC dba Longbranch Saloon
(“Longbranch”); Hal Brandel; and Walter Wright
(collectively, “Defendants”) have filed a Joint
Motion to Approve Settlement of Plaintiff's claims
brought under the Fair Labor and Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Mot., Dkt.
No. 43; see Settlement, Dkt. No. 43-1. The Court
held a hearing on the matter on April 13, 2017. Having
considered the parties' submissions, the record in this
case, and the relevant legal authority, the Court
GRANTS the parties' Motion.
Osteria and Longbranch Saloon are restaurants located in
Berkeley, California. See Second Am. Compl.
(“SAC”) ¶ 9, Dkt. No. 39. Brandel owns the
building that houses both restaurants and is a member and
controlling shareholder of Longbranch. Id. ¶ 2.
Wright is a member and controlling shareholder of Paisan.
Id. ¶ 3.
September 2013, Paisan hired Plaintiff as a dishwasher and
paid him $10.50 an hour. Id. ¶ 8. Within a
week, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of a cook.
Id. Longbranch opened next door to Paisan in 2014;
the restaurants were separated by a wall, with a doorway
entry between them. Id. ¶ 9. Starting in
December 2014, Plaintiff worked at Paisan as a cook from 8:00
a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., then immediately walked next door
to work at Longbranch as a dishwasher until approximately
11:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 11. Paisan and Longbranch
shared several hourly employees, including lead cook, bar
manager, front desk personnel, and wait staff. Id.
Plaintiff was discharged from employment at Paisan and
Longbranch around December 15, 2015. Id. ¶ 39.
initiated this litigation on May 31, 2016 individually and on
behalf of a putative FLSA collective. See Compl.,
Dkt. No. 1. On August, 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed the
operative SAC, which asserts five claims. See SAC.
He asserts the first claim for violation of section 207 of
the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207, against all Defendants on
behalf of himself and similarly situated individuals.
Id. at 2 & ¶¶ 15-22. He seeks to
represent a putative collective of “hourly, non-exempt
employees who worked for the joint employers [Paisan] and
Longbranch, and who were not paid overtime wages pursuant to
29 U.S.C. § 207[.]” Id. ¶ 6. As an
individual, Plaintiff asserts the remaining four claims
against only Paisan and Longbranch: (1) California Labor Code
section 510; (2) California Labor Code sections 226.7 and
512; (3) California Labor Code sections 201 through 203; and
(4) California's Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. &
Prof. Code § 17200. Id. ¶¶ 23-49.
parties exchanged their initial disclosures and engaged in
informal discovery; Defendants produced Plaintiffs and other
putative collective members' time and payroll records and
Paisan's and Longbranch's employee handbooks. Cha
Decl. ¶ 3, Dkt. No. 43-1. On December 15, 2016, the
parties participated in private mediation, which resulted in
an agreement upon terms of a proposed settlement. Mot. at 5.
On December 23, 2016, Plaintiff notified the Court that the
parties reached a settlement of his individual FLSA claim.
Letter, Dkt. No. 41. At this point, Plaintiff had not moved
for collective certification. Although Plaintiff filed the
SAC on behalf of similarly situated individuals, the
Settlement only resolves Plaintiffs individual claims. Mot.
at 2; see Settlement, Cha Decl., Ex. A. Plaintiff no
longer intends to pursue a putative class or collective
action on behalf of other employees. Letter at 1;
see Mot. at 2 (“[T]he Parties have settled out
Plaintiffs individual claims and seek approval of the
settlement for his individual claims.”).
parties now seek the Court's approval of the proposed
settlement. The Court continued the hearing on the matter
until April 13, 2017 and ordered the parties to file a
supplemental brief to address three issues: (1) how they
calculated Plaintiffs recovery, (2) whether dismissal would
prejudice putative collective members, and (3) the scope of
the release. Order, Dkt. No. 44. The parties timely submitted
a joint supplemental brief. Suppl. Br., Dkt. No. 45.
Settlement requires Defendants to pay a gross amount of
$30,329. Settlement ¶ 3. Of that amount, Plaintiff will
receive a total of $14,660: (1) $7,233 as reimbursement for
Plaintiff s alleged unpaid wages and (2) another $7,233
designated for penalties and interest for those unpaid wages.
Id. ¶ 3(a)-(b). The remaining $15,863
represents Plaintiffs attorneys' fees and costs and is to
be paid directly to Plaintiffs counsel. Id. ¶
Settlement also provides for the dismissal of (1) all of
Plaintiff s individual claims with prejudice and (2)
Plaintiffs collective claim without prejudice. Id.
Dismissal of Plaintiffs Individual Claims
“The [FLSA] seeks to prohibit 'labor conditions
detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of
living necessary for health, efficiency, and general
well-being of workers.'” Kasten v. Saint-Gobain
Performance Plastics Corp., 563 U.S. 1, 11 (2011)
(quoting 29 U.S.C. § 202(a)). “It does so in part
by setting forth substantive wage, hour, and overtime
standards.” Id. An employee cannot waive his
or her rights under the FLSA “because this would
nullify the purposes of the statute and thwart the
legislative policies it was designed to effectuate.”
Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., Inc., 450
U.S. 728, 740 (1981) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Thus, either the Secretary of Labor or a district court must
approve the settlement of any FLSA claim. Dunn v.
Teachers Ins. & Annuity Ass’n of Am., 2016 WL
153266, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2016) (citing
Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982)). “If a settlement in
an employee FLSA suit does reflect a reasonable compromise
over issues, such as FLSA coverage or computation of back
wages, that are actually in dispute[,] . . . the district
court [may] approve the settlement in order to promote the
policy of encouraging settlement of litigation.”
Lynn’s Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354.
Ninth Circuit has identified criteria courts must consider in
determining whether to approve a FLSA settlement. Otey v.
CrowdFlower, Inc., 2015 WL 6091741, at *4 (N.D. Cal.
Oct. 16, 2015). Courts in this district typically apply the
criteria the Eleventh Circuit established in Lynn’s
Food Stores, which requires an FLSA settlement to
constitute “'a fair and reasonable resolution of a
bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions.'”
Id. (quoting Lynn’s Food Stores, ...