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Hoffmaster v. Coating Place, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 10, 2017

DAVID HOFFMASTER, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
COATING PLACE, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM M. CONLEY, DISTRICT JUDGE

         On behalf of himself individually and others similarly-situated, plaintiff David Hoffmaster brings this action alleging that defendant Coating Place, Inc., denied him and other employees wages for time spent donning and doffing sanitary uniforms in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 216, and Wisconsin state law. (Am. Compl. (dkt. #21).) Presently before the court is the parties' joint stipulation for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (dkt. #32), and plaintiffs' unopposed motion for preliminary approval of class action settlement agreement (dkt. #33.) The court will grant both motions and set a fairness hearing for 10:00 a.m. on May 11, 2017.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this class and collective action on April 20, 2016, alleging that defendant failed to pay him and the putative class members for time spent donning and doffing sanitary uniforms, which were required to perform their jobs, in violation of the FLSA and Wisconsin state law. (Compl. (dkt. #1).) Defendant answered the complaint on May 12, 2016, denying that plaintiff and the putative class members performed uncompensated work. (Answ. (dkt. #5).)

         After engaging in discovery, including 30(b)(6) depositions, plaintiff filed an amended complaint, modifying the class definitions, and the parties stipulated to conditional certification of the FLSA collective action. (1st Am. Compl. (dkt. #16); Parties' Stip. (dkt. #14).) The court approved the stipulation. (Dkt. #15.) Notice was sent to the putative class, and a total of 22 current and former employees opted in to the FLSA collective action. (Dkt. ##18-29.)

         The parties then engaged a mediator to assist the parties in reaching a final resolution. The mediation focused primarily on the amount of time spent donning and doffing uniforms, whether a third-year of damages would be available to the FLSA opt-in members, and whether liquidated damages would be awarded. The parties reached a settlement, which is the focus of the present motions. In brief, the settlement provides for a $187, 500 settlement fund. The parties agreed to stipulate to class certification. There will be no claims process; claim members will receive funds unless they exclude themselves from the settlement. If class members exclude themselves from the settlement, their allocated amount will be re-allocated to the participating class members. If class members fail to cash their settlement checks, those funds will revert to defendant.[1] Counsel will petition for attorneys' fees and costs of one-third of the settlement fund and a $3000 enhancement payment for the named plaintiffs. Any unapproved fees and enhancement payment (or portion of payment) or amounts allocated to individuals who opt-out of the class will be re-allocated to the participating class members. (Pl.'s Br. (dkt. #34) 4-5.)

         Under the settlement, after accounting for attorneys' fees, costs and an enhancement payment, all participating class members will be paid for 12 minutes of donning and doffing for each shift worked during the statutory period at their overtime rates.[2] The average claim value for a participating class member is $1, 512.59. Those individuals who opted into the FLSA collective action will recover for the full three-year period available under the FLSA.

         ORDER

         I. Preliminary Settlement Approval

         1. Based upon the court's review of plaintiff's unopposed motion for preliminary approval of class action settlement (dkt. #33), as well as plaintiff's brief in support and other materials submitted in connection with the motion, preliminary approval of the settlement is GRANTED.

         2. The court concludes that at this preliminary stage, the proposed settlement “is within the range of possible approval.” Armstrong v. Bd. of Sch. Dirs. of City of Milwaukee, 616 F.2d 305, 314 (7th Cir. 1980), overruled on other grounds by Felzen v. Andreas, 134 F.3d 873 (7th Cir. 1998), and finds that it was reached as a result of vigorously-contested litigation to resolve bona fide disputes, see Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 n.8 (l1th Cir. 1982).

         3. The court finds that the proposed settlement appears to be the result of extensive, arm's-length negotiations by counsel well-versed in the prosecution and defense of wage-and-hour class action lawsuits.

         4. While the court is satisfied that the settlement is facially reasonable, it intends to scrutinize plaintiff counsel's application for attorneys' fees when the time comes for final approval of the settlement. Specifically, the court may use counsel's ...


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