United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
the court is the motion (Doc. 16) by plaintiff Hope Beck
("Beck") for approval of the settlement agreement
between Beck and defendants Honey Locust Farms, LLC
("Honey Locust Farms") and Thomas Bross IV
("Bross"). The parties seek to resolve Beck's
claims against defendants under the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.,
the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act ("PMWA"), 43 Pa.
Stat. § 333.101 et seq., and the Pennsylvania
Wage Payment and Collection Act ("PWPCA"), 43 Pa.
Stat. Ann. § 260.1 et seq. For the reasons that
follow, the court will grant the motion in part and deny it
Factual Background & Procedural History
Locust Farms employed Beck from approximately May 2013
through July 2016. (See Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 16).
At all times relevant, Bross was a manager or chief executive
officer for Honey Locust Farms, a limited liability company
located in Berlin, PA. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 2-3; Doc. 5
¶¶ 2-3). Beck avers that she received an hourly
wage of $31.88 per hour from May 2013 to May 2014, $36.63 per
hour from May 2014 to December 2014, and $39.38 per hour from
December 2014 until her termination in July 2016. (Doc. 1
¶¶ 6, 16). During her employment, Beck claims she
routinely worked 50-hour work weeks but only received
compensation for 40 hours per week. (Id.
¶¶ 7-8). Beck estimates her unpaid overtime between
May 2013 and July 2016 was approximately 1, 245 hours.
(Id. ¶ 16). She calculates the total overtime
pay owed to her at $44, 780.60. (Id.) Defendants
deny Beck's allegations. (Doc. 5 ¶¶ 6-8, 16).
commenced this action by filing a three-count complaint on
September 28, 2016, asserting claims for violation of the
FLSA, the PMWA, and the PWPCA. (Doc. 1). Defendants filed an
answer (Doc. 5) denying each of Beck's claims. On
September 19, 2017, Beck filed the instant motion (Doc. 16)
for judicial approval of the parties' settlement.
enacted the FLSA for the purpose of "protect[ing] all
covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working
hours." Barrentine v. Ark.-Best Freight Sys.,
450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981); see also 29 U.S.C. § 202(a).
The statute was designed to ensure that each employee covered
by the Act would receive "[a] fair day's pay for a
fair day's work and would be protected from the evil of
overwork as well as underpay." Barrentine, 450
U.S. at 739 (internal citations and quotations omitted). To
safeguard employee rights made mandatory by statute, a
majority of courts have held that bona fide FLSA
disputes may only be settled or compromised through payments
made under the supervision of the Secretary of the Department
of Labor or by judicial approval of a proposed settlement in
an FLSA lawsuit.
Third Circuit has not addressed whether FLSA actions claiming
unpaid wages may be settled privately prior to obtaining
judicial approval. Absent such guidance, district courts
within the Third Circuit have routinely adopted the majority
position and have required judicial approval as a
precondition to amicable resolution of claims. Courts typically
employ the considerations set forth by the Eleventh Circuit
in Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d 1350, when
evaluating proposed FLSA settlement agreements. See, e.g.,
McGee, 2014 WL 2514582; Brown, 2013 WL
5408575; Deitz, 2013 WL 2338496; Altenbach,
2013 WL 74251; Cuttic, 868 F.Supp.2d 464;
Brumley, 2012 WL 1019337; Morales, 2012 WL
Lynn's Food Stores, a proposed compromise may
satisfy judicial review if it is a "fair and reasonable
resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA
provisions." 679 F.2d at 1355. When a reviewing court is
satisfied that the agreement in fact resolves a bona
fide dispute, it proceeds in two phases: first, the
court assesses whether the parties' agreement is fair and
reasonable to the plaintiff employee; second, it determines
whether the settlement furthers or "impermissibly
frustrates" implementation of the FLSA in the workplace.
Altenbach, 2013 WL 74251, at *1; see McGee, 2014 WL
2514582, at *2; Brown, 2013 WL 5408575, at *1;
Dees, 706 F.Supp.2d at 1241.
court will consider seriatim the terms of the
proposed settlement agreement, the nature of the parties'
dispute, and the fairness and reasonableness of the
compromise as to Beck and as measured against the intent of
the FLSA. See Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at
Terms of Proposed Agreement
the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, defendants
agree to pay $30, 000.00 to resolve
Beck's claims. (See Doc. 16-1 ¶ 1).
Of the total settlement amount, Beck will receive $22, 619.10
and her counsel will receive $7, 380.90 for attorney's
fees and costs. (Id.) In exchange for payment
thereunder, the agreement contains the following release
3. Except as set forth in Paragraph 1 of this Agreement,
Employee is not entitled to any other payments, compensation,
wages, benefits, reimbursements or distributions from any
Defendant or any Releasee under this Agreement, under any
prior agreement, express or implied, written or unwritten, or
otherwise. References in this Agreement to the release of
claims by Employee against Defendants and the other Releasees
shall be deemed to also include, without limitation, the
release of claims against Defendants and the Releasees
regarding all contractual payments, compensation,
commissions, wages, benefits, back pay, interest, statutory
payments and penalties, bonuses, damages, paid time off,
overtime, sick pay, severance pay, travel expenses,