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Jonathan S. Almodova, et al v. City and County of Honolulu

September 30, 2011

JONATHAN S. ALMODOVA, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF OFFERS OF JUDGMENT

Plaintiffs Noel Araki, Byron Beatty, Harold Chi, George Dalton, Thomas Dumaoal, Stephen Foster, Michael Fujioka, Ross Furuhashi, Chad Gushikuma, Paula Harris, Creighton Hatico, David Hernandez, Wendell Higa, Kaleookalani Hosaka, Ian Ibrao, Sean Iida, Jonathan Kam, Bruce Kauer, James Kaulia, Jason Kenjo, Josette Lai, Dong Lee, Alfred Macaibay, Dennis Matsumura, Jasmine McGuire, Ryan Miyataki, Fumikazu Muraoka, Aleksander Naluai, Darren Nihipali, Kawika Nishimoto, Nathan Oshima, Michael Pangilinan, Jeffrey Park, Miller Picardal, Jeffery Pohaku, Timothy Rapoza, Bruce Sanehira, Chad Sano, Don Santiago, Russel Won, and Sang Yoon (collectively, "Plaintiffs") and Defendant City & County of Honolulu ("Defendant") filed the instant Joint Motion for Approval of Offers of Judgment ("Motion") on August 4, 2011. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ("Local Rules"). After careful consideration of the Motion and the relevant legal authority, the Joint Motion is HEREBY GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Jonathan S. Almodova, et al., who are employees of Defendant, filed this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") on June 28, 2010.

In the preceding action, Almodova, et al. v. City & County of Honolulu, CV 07-00378 DAE-LEK ("CV 07-00378"), Defendant made individual offers of settlement to 422 of the 463 plaintiffs, with different amounts offered to groups of plaintiffs based upon their department and ranking or status. 2010 WL 1372298, at *1 & n.2 (D. Hawai`i Mar. 31, 2010) ("Almodova I"). Each individual plaintiff independently chose whether or not to accept his or her offer, with 280 plaintiffs accepting. Certain groups did not receive settlement offers, specifically battalion chiefs in the fire department and employees of other departments. Id. at *1. The magistrate judge found the settlements to be fair and reasonable and recommended approval of the settlements. Id. at *6. In addition, using the lodestar analysis as a guide, the magistrate judge found that the attorneys' fees that Defendant agreed to pay in addition to the settlement amounts were reasonable, and the magistrate judge recommended approval of the agreed upon award of attorneys' fees. Id. at *12-13.

The district judge issued the Order Adopting Magistrate's Findings and Recommendation on April 20, 2010. [CV 07-00378 (dkt. no. 198).] After approval of the settlements, the district judge approved the parties' stipulation to dismiss the action without prejudice and to allow the remaining plaintiffs, who either did not receive settlement offers or rejected the settlement offers they received, to re-file their FLSA claims in a new action under the statute of limitations applicable to CV 07-00378. [Id., Stip. & Order to Dismiss the Action Without Prejudice & Preserve the Statute of Limitations, filed 6/21/10 (dkt. no. 199).] The Stipulation and Order also stated:

9. For the purpose of attorney's fees and costs, Almodova I and Almodova II shall be treated as a continuous action. The fee agreements signed in Almodova I shall remain in full force and effect for Almodova II. Attorney's fees and costs generated during Almodova I shall be recoverable in Almodova II to the extent they would have been recoverable if the action had continued under Almodova I, whether pursuant to a fee agreement or a statutory or other legal entitlement[.] [Id. at 3.]

The remaining 183 plaintiffs filed the instant action on June 28, 2010. The Complaint alleges, identically to CV 07-378, that Defendant violated the FLSA by: improperly calculating the plaintiffs' regular rate of pay, which is used to calculate overtime pay; failing to compensate them for pre-shift and post- shift periods of work and working through unpaid meal periods; failing to comply with the FLSA's compensatory time off provisions; failing to compensate them in a timely manner for overtime work; and improperly classifying certain plaintiffs as exempt from the FLSA. The Complaint seeks an award of the unpaid overtime compensation due under the FLSA, liquidated damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

On August 31, 2010, Defendant issued individual Offers of Judgment to the 183 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' counsel communicated the offers to each plaintiff individually, and forty-one accepted.*fn1 [Mem. in Supp. of Motion at 7-8.] Similarly to CV 07-00378, this action is a collective action, but the settlement is distinguishable from a class action settlement in that Defendant made individual offers to each plaintiff, who then made his or her own decision to accept or reject his or her offer.

Plaintiffs argue that the Court should approve the Offers of Judgment and the stipulated attorneys' fees and litigation costs for the same reasons the Court approved the settlements in CV 07-00378, as the instant case reasserts identical claims.

PROPOSED SETTLEMENT

Plaintiffs and Defendant agreed to individual settlements in varying amounts based on the department where each plaintiff worked and the type of position each plaintiff held. Defendant offered the following amounts:

* $800 for Captains in the Fire Department;

* $1,000 for Sergeants, Lieutenants, and Dispatch Supervisors in the Fire Department;

* $1,500 for non-supervisory employees in the Fire Department; and

* $2,000 for non-supervisory employees in the Police Department.

[Mem. in Supp. of Motion at 7 (citations omitted).] Based upon the forty-one Plaintiffs who accepted, the parties stipulated that Defendant would pay "attorneys' fees and costs in an amount equal to 33-1/3% of the gross payments to Plaintiffs ($24,830.85) plus costs incurred ($2,352.19)." [Id. at 8 (citations omitted).]

DISCUSSION

The FLSA provides:

Any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or section 207 of this title shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages. . . . The court in [in an FLSA] action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action.

29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

As in Almodova I, the Court will review the proposed settlement and the stipulated attorneys' fees and costs, according to the fairness standard set forth in the seminal case, Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982). See 2010 WL 1372298, at *3. Lynn's Food requires the district court to "scrutiniz[e] the settlement for fairness[,]" and determine that the proposed settlement "is a ...


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