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Jefferson v. MEC Development, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 15, 2019

ANTONIO JEFFERSON et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MEC DEVELOPMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT (DOC. NOS. 29, 29-3)

         This lawsuit is about an employer that allegedly violated federal and California wage and hours laws by, amongst other acts and omissions, failing to pay overtime and failing to provide meal and rest breaks. The employer is Defendant MEC Development, LLC (“Defendant” or “MEC”), and the plaintiffs are three former employees of MEC: namely, Antonio Jefferson, Wayne Lewis, and Gregory Brown.

         Before the Court is the parties' second joint motion for approval of a settlement agreement of Plaintiffs' several claims, including a FLSA overtime claim. See Doc. No. 29-1. The Court will approve the settlement agreement.

         I. Background

         MEC is a North Dakota limited-liability company that provided services pertaining to unmanned aerial systems (e.g., drones) and surveillance and video/imagery solutions. Some of MEC's business operations were conducted in China Lake, California and Inyokern, California. At these locations, MEC employed “logisticians” who performed logistics support.

         Plaintiffs are three former employees of MEC who worked as logisticians at MEC's China Lake and Inyokern locations. Plaintiffs were employed by MEC during the following time periods: Jefferson from May 26, 2014, through September 8, 2015; Lewis from February 10, 2014, through September 8, 2015; and Brown from May 12, 2014, through September 8, 2015.

         After leaving their employment at MEC, Plaintiffs filed suit against MEC in October 2017. See Doc. No. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that MEC violated multiple federal and California wage and hour laws affecting Plaintiffs and a class of other similarly situated logisticians. On that basis, Plaintiffs pleaded seven claims for relief against MEC.

         Plaintiffs' first claim is (1) failure to pay overtime compensation as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).[1] Plaintiffs' six other claims against MEC are based on California law: namely, (2) failure to pay overtime compensation; (3) failure to provide meal periods; (4) failure to authorize and permit rest breaks; (5) failure to pay all wages due at termination; (6) engaging in unfair competition; and (7) failure to comply with California's wage statement laws, such as by failing to furnish Plaintiffs with accurate itemized written statements showing their total hours worked. See id.

         Plaintiffs pleaded their FLSA claim on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated logisticians pursuant to § 216(b) of the FLSA, which allows a plaintiff to bring an FLSA claim “in behalf of himself . . . and other employees similarly situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Similarly, Plaintiffs pleaded their California claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated logisticians.

         After engaging in discovery and settlement negotiations, Plaintiffs and Defendant filed their first joint motion for approval of a settlement agreement. See Doc. No. 25-1. The Court denied that motion because the proposed settlement agreement and the parties' briefing failed to demonstrate that the proposed settlement agreement was a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions. See Doc. No. 28 (Court's order denying first motion for approval of settlement agreement). In the Court's order denying the motion, the Court identified the relevant legal standard that the parties must meet in order to obtain the Court's approval of a FLSA settlement, and the Court identified several deficiencies with the parties' first proposed settlement agreement and supportive briefing. See id.

         The parties then filed their second joint motion for approval of a settlement agreement, which is now before the Court. To date, Plaintiffs have not moved for class certification for any of their claims, and Plaintiffs indicate that they have abandoned their pursuit of class certification.

         II. Parties' Second Joint Settlement Motion

         In their second joint motion for approval of a settlement agreement, the parties assert that they have reached a settlement agreement that, if approved by the Court, will resolve all of Plaintiffs' claims. The parties state that the settlement agreement should be approved by the Court because the settlement agreement is fair and reasonable.

         In the settlement agreement, Defendant agrees to make the following four settlement payments to Plaintiffs, respectively: (1) $22, 000 to Jefferson, $6, 763.70 of which is for his California overtime claim and $15, 236.30 of which is for his California rest and meal break claim; (2) $24, 000 to Lewis, $7, 749.66 of which is for his California overtime claim and $16, 250.34 of which is for his California rest and meal break claim; (3) $21, 000 to Brown, $5, 164.83 of which is for his California overtime claim and $15, 835.17 of which is for his California rest and meal break claim; and (4) $61, 344.45 to all Plaintiffs - to be paid directly to Plaintiffs' attorneys - representing the full and final settlement of all of Plaintiffs' attorney's fees and costs.

         The settlement agreement provides no payments to Plaintiffs for their California claims of failure to pay wages when due and failure to provide compliant wage statements, and this is because, according to the parties, the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Similarly, the settlement agreement provides no payments to Plaintiffs for their FLSA overtime claim because, according to the parties, the claim is likely barred by the statute of limitations and, additionally, double recovery for both a FLSA overtime claim and a California overtime claim is generally not allowed.

         In consideration for the foregoing settlement payments, each Plaintiff agrees to release Defendant “from any and all claims . . . that he had, has, or may have against [Defendant], arising out of or relating to the subject matter of the claims in this ...


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