The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
The Court has before it Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement Class, and Approval of the Proposed Notice of Settlement (Dkt. 73). The motion is unopposed. The Court will grant the motion as explained below.
The Eleventh Circuit's decision in Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982) is widely accepted for the proposition that all FLSA settlements must be approved by the Department of Labor or a court. A proposed settlement which involves a compromise by an employee will be approved only after the court determines that the settlement is a "fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions." Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir. 1982). In this sense, settlement of an FLSA claim is similar to Rule 23 settlements.
However, courts have also indicated that "[p]reliminary approval of a class action settlement, in contrast to final approval, is at most a determination that there is what might be termed 'probable cause' to submit the proposal to class members and hold a full-scale hearing as to its fairness." Davis, 775 F.Supp.2d at 607 (conditionally certifying both a Rule 23 class and a collective action under the FLSA for settlement purposes only); see also In re Traffic Executive Association--Eastern Railroads, 627 F.2d 631, 634 (2d Cir.1980). Thus, a proposed class action settlement should "be preliminarily approved where it appears to be the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations, has no obvious deficiencies, does not improperly grant preferential treatment to class representatives or segments of the class and falls within the range of possible approval." Id. (Internal citation omitted).
Here, the Court finds that it appears the proposed settlement is, in fact, the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations, has no obvious deficiencies, does not improperly grant preferential treatment to class representatives or segments of the class, and falls within the range of possible approval. The Court preliminarily finds that the proposed settlement appears to be a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute. It appears that counsel have reasonably evaluated their respective positions, and that settlement will likely avoid substantial additional costs to the parties. Accordingly, the Court will preliminarily approve the settlement. However, the Court stresses that this is "preliminary" approval, and the Court expects to conduct a fairness hearing before finally approving the settlement. Accordingly,
1. Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement Class, and Approval of the Proposed Notice of Settlement (Dkt. 73) is GRANTED. This is not final approval of the settlement.
2. The proposed Stipulation and Settlement Agreement, Notice to Potential FLSA Opt-Ins Regarding Pendency of a Collective Action, and Consent to Join Settlement Form attached as exhibits to the Declaration of Carlos Leach in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement (Dkt. 75) are hereby approved.
3. CPT Group, Inc. is appointed as the settlement class Claims Administrator with all costs associated with administration of the settlement class paid for separately by the Defendant.
4. Within ten (10) calendar days from the date of this Order, Defendant shall furnish the Claims Administrator with a list of all Potential FLSA Opt-Ins and their last known contact information.
5. Within fifteen (15) calendar days from the Claims Administrator's receipt of the list of Potential FLSA Opt-Ins from the Defendant, the Claims Administrator will send, via first class mail, the Court-approved Class Notice and Consent to Join Settlement Form to each Potential FLSA Opt-In.
6. Potential FLSA Opt-Ins may elect to opt into the Litigation and thus become Settlement Class Members. Potential FLSA Opt-Ins who wish to exercise this option and receive a Settlement Payment, must return the Consent to Join Settlement Form by no later than the Notice Response Deadline as proven by a postmark on or before the Notice Response Deadline or as proven by a receipt establishing that the Consent to Join Settlement Form was delivered on or before the Notice Response Deadline. The Notice Response Deadline is the date sixty (60) calendar days from ...