United States District Court, D. Nebraska
ISAAC VALENCIA and ERNESTO CONTRERAS, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated individuals; Plaintiffs,
GREATER OMAHA PACKING, Defendant. ISAAC VALENCIA and ERNESTO CONTRERAS, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated individuals; Plaintiffs,
GREATER OMAHA PACKING, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF FINAL APPROVAL
JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the plaintiffs' unopposed motions for final approval of attorney fees and costs, Filing No. 263 in 8:08CV88 and Filing No. 189 in 8:08CV161, and on the parties' joint motions for final approval of settlement agreement, Filing No. 264 in 8:08CV88 and Filing No. 190 in 8:08CV161. This is a class/collective action for recovery of wages for donning and doffing activities under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-1228 et seq.
The court conditionally certified plaintiffs' FLSA claims as a Section 216(b) collective action on June 9, 2009, defining the class as follows:
All present and former production support employees who have been employed by Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc.'s Omaha, Nebraska, processing facility during the time period March 4, 2005, to the present, who use personal protective equipment and are compensated based on a gang time system.
Filing No. 92 in 8:08CV88; Filing No. 124 in 8:08CV161. The court also certified a Rule 23 class for the state law claims with the following definition:
All current and former production and support workers of Defendant Greater Omaha Packing Co.'s Omaha, Nebraska meat processing facility who have been employed by Greater Omaha at any time from March 4, 2004, to the present and are or were paid on a "gang time" basis during the class period.
Filing No. 143 in 8:08CV88 and 8:08CV161, Memorandum and Order (noting applicability to both actions). The court also approved the parties' Joint Proposed Combined FLSA and Rule 23 Class Notice. Filing No. 155 in 8:08CV88; Filing No. 148 in 8:08CV161. The court preliminarily approved the parties' proposed settlement. Filing No. 262 in 8:08CV88 and Filing No. 188 in 8:08CV161.
In support of the motion for final approval, the parties submit the Declaration of Jonathan P. Hruska, BrownGreer PLC, Claims Administrator ("Hruska Decl."). Filing No. 267-1 in 8:08CV88; Filing No. 193-1 in 9:08CV161. The parties have shown that the claims administrator complied with the terms of the settlement agreement and order of preliminary approval. Id. at 1-3. They have shown that notice of the proposed settlement was sent to 3, 954 present and former Greater Omaha Packing Co. employees. Id. at 1-3. As of January 15, 2014, the Claims Administrator had received 441 consents to join the suit and a total of 561 settlement class members have opted in to the settlement. Id. The parties have shown that the workweeks for the 651 opt-ins total 91, 970 workweeks, resulting in the highest payment due to an individual Settlement Class Member of $1, 333.93. Id. The parties have also shown that the Claims Administrator has not received any requests from Settlement Class Members requesting to opt-out of the settlement. Id. Similarly, no objections to the settlement have been received by the plaintiffs' law firms. Id.
A fairness hearing was held on January 23, 2014. No one appeared to object to the settlement. Counsel for both parties stated on the record that no additional objections or other expressions of dissatisfaction with the settlement had been received. It therefore appears to the court that class members have been adequately apprised of the settlement and there is no opposition to the settlement.
With respect to their motion for attorney fees, the parties have shown that the amount of fees requested, $104, 559.10, represents approximately 28.5% of the total lodestar amount of time expended in this matter, and to 21.5% of the total settlement fund of $485, 000.00. See Declaration of Brian P. McCafferty ("McCafferty Decl."), Filing No. 261-6 in 8:08cv88; Filing No. 187-6 in 8:08cv161. The attorney fee amount was negotiated as part of the settlement and class members were provided notice. No objection or other response to the motion for an award of fees has been filed and the time for filing objections has expired.
Plaintiffs also seek reimbursement of $113, 940.90 in costs and expenses. They have set forth the costs and expenses in detail. See McCafferty Decl., e.g., Filing No. 261-6 at pp. 27-34, 38-40, 56-59, 261-6.
Under the FLSA, an employee may waive FLSA rights through a stipulated judgment after a court has reviewed and approved the agreement for fairness. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Courts should review FLSA collective action settlements to ensure "a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute." See Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States Dept. of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1354-55 (11th Cir. 1982). A district court is required to consider four factors in making a final determination that a settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate: (1) the merits of the plaintiff's case, weighed against the terms of the settlement; (2) the defendant's financial condition; (3) the complexity and expense of further litigation; and (4) the amount of opposition to the settlement. In re Wireless ...