United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
OFFICE OF JUSTIN A. ZELLER, P.C. By: Brandon D. Sherr,
Esq.Counsel for Plaintiff
LAW FIRM, LLC By: Tara P. Kao, Esq. Counsel for Defendants
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon the joint motion of
Plaintiff Daniel E. Chillogallo (“Plaintiff”) and
Defendants John Doe LLC #1, Vin Lin Sushi Corp. d/b/a Megu
Sushi Japanese Cuisine, Megu Sushi Ventnor LLC d/b/a Megu
Modern Japanese Cuisine, Steven Megu Lin, and Brenda Ong
(“Defendants”) to approve the parties'
settlement and dismiss the action with prejudice [Dkt. No.
62]. The Court has considered the parties' joint
submissions, as well as the parties' representations at
the in-person status conference on May 1, 2018, and decides
the motion without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
78(b). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant
the parties' motion to approve the settlement agreement
and dismiss the case with prejudice.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
commenced this action on January 26, 2015, alleging unpaid
wages, tips, and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq.,
and the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. §
42:11-56a4. [Dkt. No. 1]. Plaintiff has amended his complaint
twice, most recently filing a Second Amended Complaint on
February 24, 2016. [Dkt. No. 19]. Although Plaintiff filed
this case as a putative collective action, no other potential
plaintiffs have opted-in and Plaintiff has not filed a motion
to conditionally certify the class.
months of fact discovery and negotiations, on May 31, 2018,
the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement and Release
(the “Settlement Agreement”) [Dkt. No. 63, Ex.
1]. The Settlement Agreement resolves all of Plaintiff's
claims, on an individual basis, against Plaintiffs in
exchange for a total sum of $15, 000.00. On June 1, 2018, the
parties filed the instant motion seeking approval of the
Settlement Agreement and dismissal of this matter with
employees bring a private action for back wages under the
FLSA, and present to the district court a proposed
settlement, the district court may enter a stipulated
judgment after scrutinizing the settlement for
fairness.” Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v.
United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982);
see also Rabbenou v. Dayan Foods, Ltd., No. 17-1330,
2017 WL 3315263, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 3, 2017); Morales v.
PepsiCo, Inc., No. 11-6275, 2012 WL 870752, at *1
(D.N.J. Mar. 14, 2012).
the Third Circuit has not addressed whether [FSLA] actions
claiming unpaid wages may be settled privately without first
obtaining court approval, district courts within the Third
Circuit have followed the majority position and assumed that
judicial approval is necessary.” Bettger v.
Crossmark, Inc., No. 13-2030, 2015 WL 279754, at *3
(M.D. Pa. Jan. 22, 2015). “[A] district court may enter
a stipulated judgment if it determines that the compromise
reached ‘is a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona
fide dispute over FLSA provisions.'”
Brumley, 2012 WL 1019337, at *2 (citing
Lynn's Food Stores, 679 F.2d at 1354).
Accordingly, the Court must review whether the settlement
agreement (i) concerns a bona fide dispute, and (ii) is a
fair and reasonable resolution for the Plaintiff.
on the record, the terms and conditions of the settlement,
and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Settlement
Agreement reflects a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona
fide dispute over Plaintiff's FLSA claims.
the Settlement Agreement concerns a bona fide dispute as to
Plaintiff's ability to recover for unpaid wages, tips,
and overtime. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to pay
him the minimum wage and overtime for all hours worked and
wrongfully deprived him of tips, in violation of the FLSA.
Defendants dispute Plaintiff's allegations, arguing that
Plaintiff was compensated above the minimum wage, received a
two-hour break daily, and was provided with lodging and
living expenses. Defendants also disagree with
Plaintiff's calculation of hours worked and maintain that
Plaintiff was not employed in a tipped position.
the Settlement Agreement is fair and reasonable to Plaintiff.
According to the parties, Plaintiff's counsel's
initial damages estimate was approximately $26, 718.23,
consisting of $2, 570.21 in unpaid minimum wages, $9, 0003.02
in unpaid overtime, and $15, 145.00 in misused tips.
Settlement Agreement ¶7. Defendant maintains that the
unpaid minimum wage and tip claims are entirely without
merit, but acknowledges a risk of exposure on the unpaid
overtime claim. Both parties acknowledge that there would be
substantial risks and costs associated with fully litigating
the case. Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement,
Plaintiff will receive $15, 000.00, with $5, 000.00 allocated
to Plaintiff's attorneys' fees and costs, in return
for a release of Plaintiff's wage and hour ...