United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Renza Birdie and Defendants Brandi's Hope Community
Services, LLC and Danny Cowart move the Court to approve
their settlement and dismiss this Fair Labor Standards Act
suit. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
dispute arises from Brandi's Hope's alleged failure
to pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours
Hope operates residential care facilities for disabled
adults. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17) Brandi's Hope maintains its
corporate headquarters in Magee, Mississippi. (Doc. 1, ¶
10) Danny Cowart is Brandi's Hope's owner and chief
executive officer. (Doc. 1, ¶ 11) Renza Birdie worked
for Brandi's Hope as a “direct support
professional” from November 2014 to May 2015. (Doc. 1,
¶¶ 9, 15) As a direct support professional, Birdie
worked 17-hour shifts -- from 3:00 P.M. to 8:00 A.M. --
caring for disabled adults. (Doc. 1, ¶ 19)
February 2017, Birdie sued Cowart and Brandi's Hope under
Section 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Doc. 1,
¶ 1) Birdie alleged that she and similarly situated
direct support professionals were not compensated for working
overtime. (Doc. 1, ¶ 29) In particular, Birdie alleged
that a Brandi's Hope policy that required direct support
professionals to clock out between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M.
deprived her of 8 hours of compensation per shift. (Doc. 1,
April 2017, Brandi's Hope and Cowart answered
Birdie's complaint, denied liability, and raised 21
affirmative defenses. (Doc. 6) One defense asserted that
Brandi's Hope and Cowart were not liable because they
relied on the United States Department of Labor's
guidance in deciding not to compensate Birdie for the hours
she worked between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. (Doc. 6, p. 3)
Another defense asserted that even if Birdie proved
liability, she could recover only two years of compensation.
(Doc. 6, p. 3)
2017, the Court conditionally certified a collective action
class consisting of direct support professionals employed by
Brandi's Hope who stayed with a client overnight at any
time since February 24, 2014. (Doc. 20, p. 12)
year later, in June 2018, the parties agreed to a settlement
during a conference before Magistrate Judge Michael T.
Parker. (Minute entry of 6/15/18) Magistrate Judge Parker
ordered the parties to submit the proposed settlement to this
Court for approval. (Minute entry of 6/15/18; text-only order
of 7/2/18) The parties submitted the proposed settlement to
the Court for in camera review on July 11, 2018.
parties now move the Court to approve their proposed
settlement and dismiss Birdie's unpaid overtime
compensation claims with prejudice. (Doc. 110)
Compromise of Fair Labor Standards Act Claims
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay
overtime to covered employees who work more than 40 hours in
a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). An employer that fails to
pay overtime to a covered employee who works more than 40
hours in a week is liable for the amount of unpaid overtime
compensation and liquidated damages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
substantive rights cannot be waived. Martin v. Spring Break
'83 Prods., L.L.C., 688 F.3d 247, 257 (5th Cir. 2012).
Most courts hold that “in the absence of supervision by
the Department of Labor or scrutiny from a court, a
settlement of an FLSA claim is prohibited.” Bodle v.
TXL Mortg. Corp., x 788 F.3d 159, 164 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing
Lynn's Food Stores v. Dep't of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350,
1353 (11th Cir. 1982)).
Court will approve an FLSA settlement if it (1) resolves a
bona fide FLSA dispute and (2) is fair and reasonable. See,
e.g., Black v. DMNO, LLC, Civ. A. No. 16-CV-2708, 2018 WL
2299055, at *4 (E.D. La. May 21, 2018); Koviach v. Crescent