I had blogged about this case a short time ago, with my “take” being that this was a bad case for the employer and that it should be settled quickly. Maybe they were listening. Now, the employer, a Florida country club and the workers suing have requested that the federal judge dismiss the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) suit, asserting that the club has paid almost $96,000 to 35 workers and $34,000 in fees to the lawyers. The parties assert this will resolve the case. The case is entitled Werman et al. v. Rotonda Golf Partners LLC and was filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida.
Under the agreement, the former maintenance workers (Mark Werman and Ronald Segui) agreed to cut their damages calculation to 1.5 times the amounts allegedly due them, rather than doubling the damages, as they initially sought. The employer (quite correctly) took the view that it was worth paying $130,000 to avoid a long, drawn out judicial process that most certainly would have cost the Company a great deal more in legal fees (for their counsel and the adversary, as the FLSA is a fee shifting statute) and possible damages.
The joint motion stated that “plaintiffs’ probability of success on the merits, and the amount of any potential award, also is uncertain, further suggesting that this settlement is fair and appropriate.” The plaintiffs assert, and the defendants deny, that the plaintiffs are owed wages due to defendants’ alleged violations of the FLSA.”
The plaintiffs alleged that the employer avoided and evaded the payment of proper overtime by splitting hours between the entities, thereby always paying straight time even though the hours worked at both places aggregated to more than forty in a week. The settlement discussions began in in June “in an effort to avoid the cost and risk associated with continued litigation.” Then the parties sent opt-in notices to 36 current/former employees. By this juncture, the Company had already sent checks to 35 workers, including all opt-ins, which added up to $95,862.40. The defendants also agreed to pay $34,141.76 in attorney fees. The parties urged the Court to approve the settlement.
The parties, especially the defendant, did the right thing here. I have done this myself many times when faced with a set of facts, as the defendant/employer’s counsel, that signaled to me that something had been done wrong and considerable expense and liability lay down the line.
The best thing to do is get out early and as cheaply as can be done. Then, of far greater importance, is the need to correct the deficiencies that led to the suit and never do it again.
Kudos to the employer!