United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
CHAD KAPOLKA AND BRETT TURRENTINE, Individually and on behalf of all Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
ANCHOR DRILLING FLUIDS, USA, LLC and Q'MAX AMERICA, INC. Defendants.
Nicholas Ranjan United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiffs' “Unopposed Motion
to Approve Confidential Collective Action Settlement.”
[ECF 46]. In their motion, Plaintiffs request that the Court
approve a settlement agreement resolving their claims under
the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). [ECF 46].
As the parties recognize, because of the strong public
interest in the rights guaranteed by the FLSA, such claims
may not be settled except through a compromise supervised by
the Department of Labor pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(c)
or, as Plaintiffs seek to do here, by obtaining approval from
a federal district court pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(c).
reassignment of this case,  Judge Peter J. Phipps granted the
parties' joint motion requesting leave to file the
petition for approval and proposed settlement agreement under
seal. [ECF 44; ECF 45]. The parties' stated basis for
filing under seal was to “comply with the terms of
their agreement, ” which includes a provision requiring
“that the terms of the settlement shall remain
confidential.” [ECF 44]. Upon review, however, the
Court is concerned that it may be unable to approve this
confidential settlement agreement because of the
“strong presumption in favor of keeping settlement
agreements in FLSA wage-settlement cases unsealed and
available for public view.” Cuttic v.
Crozer-Chester Med. Ctr., 868 F.Supp.2d 464, 467 (E. D.
presence of a “confidentiality clause” is
“a common basis for a court's rejection of a
proposed [FLSA settlement] agreement.” Kraus v. PA
Fit II, LLC, 155 F.Supp.3d 516, 532 (E.D. Pa. 2016).
Indeed, given the public-private character of FLSA employee
rights, “[n]umerous courts have been asked to consider
and approve the terms of an FLSA settlement agreement and the
vast majority of those courts have found that the agreement
should not be sealed.” Mesta v. Citizens Bank,
N.A., No. CIV.A. 14-703, 2015 WL 4039358, at *2 (W.D.
Pa. 2015); see also Weismantle v. Jali, No.
2:13-CV-01087, 2015 WL 1866190, at *2 (W.D. Pa. 2015)
(collecting cases and concluding that “[w]hat can be
gleaned from this prevailing, if not overwhelming, caselaw
trend is that, absent something very special in a very
specific case which generates a very good reason above and
beyond the desire of the parties to keep the terms of an FLSA
settlement out of the public's view, if the parties want
the Court to approve the substance of an FLSA settlement
agreement, it cannot be filed under seal.”); Vargas
v. Gen. Nutrition Centers, Inc., No. 2:10-CV-867, 2015
WL 4155449, at *1 (W.D. Pa. 2015) (“The parties in this
case have apparently cast aside that body of law and have
instead filed a joint motion to file their settlement
agreement and release under seal, citing their mutual
understanding that those documents ‘should be deemed
confidential.' A stipulation to seal will not, however,
overcome the strong presumption.”); Adams v.
Bayview Asset Mgmt., LLC, 11 F.Supp.3d 474, 476 (E.D.
Pa. 2014) (“Public access to judicial records is
particularly appropriate in the context of the FLSA. …
‘Therefore, there is a strong presumption in favor of
keeping settlement agreements in FLSA wage-settlement cases
unsealed and available for public view.'”);
Howard v. Philadelphia Hous. Auth., 197 F.Supp.3d
773, 779 (E.D. Pa. 2016) (“[T]he proposed Settlement
does not contain a confidentiality clause, which courts have
recognized as antagonistic to the FLSA's
light of the above, the Court's inclination is to reject
the parties' proposed settlement agreement on the basis
of its confidentiality clause, absent “something very
special in [this] very specific case which generates a very
good reason above and beyond the desire of the parties to
keep the terms of an FLSA settlement out of the public's
view.” Weismantle, No. 2:13-CV-01087, 2015 WL
1866190, at *2. Nevertheless, the Court recognizes that the
parties properly obtained leave to file their proposed
agreement under seal before a different judge and have not
had an opportunity to fully brief the confidentiality issue.
Accordingly, the Court will provide the parties with an
opportunity to file supplemental briefing addressing the
Court's concern or, alternatively, to withdraw the
currently pending motion and either (1) re-file a new motion
and revised settlement agreement that does not contain a
confidentiality clause on the public docket, or; (2) file a
written report advising the Court of their position with
respect to settlement in light of this order.
corresponding order follows.
NOW, this 3rd day of September, 2019, it is
ORDERED that the parties do
ONE of the following on or before
September 17, 2019:
(1) Submit a supplemental brief, not to exceed 10
pages, explaining why the Court should not
reject the proposed confidential settlement [ECF 46] for the
reasons discussed above. The parties may file separate
briefs, each not to exceed 10 pages, or elect to file one
brief jointly. The parties are encouraged to meet and confer
with respect to their filing(s) in an effort to file a joint
(2) Withdraw the currently pending sealed motion and file
either (i) a new motion on the public docket, attaching a
revised version of the settlement agreement that does not
contain a confidentiality clause, or; (ii) a written report
advising the Court as to the parties' position with
respect to settlement in light of this order.
Court will reserve final ruling on Plaintiffs' sealed
motion for approval [ECF 46] until it has received
submissions from the parties in accordance with this order.
 The case was reassigned to this Court
on August 6, 2019 by order of Chief United States District
Judge Mark ...