United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
AWARD OF INCENTIVE PAYMENT
M. Kurren, United States Magistrate Judge
Sonya Adams, an emergency management technician for Defendant
City and County of Honolulu, filed this collective class
action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §
201, et seq., to collect overtime payments.
See Third Amended Complaint, ECF No. 105. Adams is
the lead plaintiff in this case and has been joined by 317
other plaintiffs out of 436 people who potentially had
similar FLSA claims. See Report and Recommendations
of Special Master, ECF No. 106, PageID # 913, 919. Because
neither party objected to the Special Master's Report and
Recommendations, the parties are bound by them. See
Stipulation to Appointment of Special Master, ECF No. 78,
PageID # 510.
17, 2017, Adams filed the present Motion for Award of
Incentive Payment to Collective Representative, seeking an
incentive payment of $17, 310.00. See ECF No. 107.
Although there is no dispute that this court has the
discretion to award an incentive payment to Adams,
see ECF No. 109, PageID # 990, the City and County
of Honolulu objects to such an award in this case. This court
rules that an incentive award of $10, 000 to Adams is
appropriate under the circumstances presented here.
An Incentive Award is Appropriate in This Case.
awards are discretionary and “fairly typical in class
action cases.” Rodriguez v. West Publ'g
Corp., 563 F.3d 948, 958 (9th Cir. 2009) . As
the City and County of Honolulu concedes, “the United
States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has approved
‘incentive awards' to class representatives in
class action lawsuits.” ECF No. 109, PageID # 990
(citing Stanton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 976-77
(9th Cir., 2003)). In evaluating whether to award
incentive payments to named class action plaintiffs, courts
examine the actions taken by named class action plaintiffs to
protect the interests of the class, the degree to which the
class benefitted from those actions, the amount of time and
effort plaintiffs expended in pursuing litigation, and the
plaintiffs' reasonable fears of workplace retaliation.
Stanton, 327 F.3d at 977.
on the court's observations and discussions with the
parties, it is abundantly clear that Adams spent an enormous
amount of time helping her attorney and the arbitrator
understand the facts underlying the claims in this case.
See Decl. of Sonya Adams, ECF No. 107-2, PageID #
950 (estimating that Adams spent more than 1000 hours
reviewing payroll records, calculating unpaid overtime, and
discussing various facts and issues with her attorney and
special master). Moreover, there is no dispute that she
played an integral role in getting 317 of the possible 436
people to join in this litigation and settle their claims.
Adams, for example, drove to various plaintiffs' homes
and workplaces to explain the case, the process, and the
settlement proposal. See Id. (estimating that Adams
spent 640 hours meeting with the various plaintiffs).
Accordingly, Adams's role in this collective class action
was significantly greater than the average class
representative. Without Adams's tireless efforts, the
settlement of the claims in this case would not have happened
to the same extent. Although the record does not establish
that Adams feared workplace retaliation, it was clear from
their interactions before this judge that Adams had an
acrimonious relationship with her employer and that there was
and is the possibility of retaliation. See,
e.g., ECF No. 109, PageID # 995 (arguing that any
incentive award to Adams would amount to paying her with city
funds for personal work and then stating, “The City
rightfully terminates employees who ‘game the
system' by receiving City pay but not performing City
services”). Under these circumstances, this court
determines that an incentive award is appropriate.
The Court Awards Adams an Incentive Award of $10,
the court determines that an incentive award is appropriate,
the court must determine the amount of the award. In
determining an appropriate incentive award, courts examine
the number of plaintiffs receiving the award, the proportion
of the incentive award relative to the settlement amount, the
size of each payment, the complexity of the litigation, and
the number of hours plaintiffs spent with respect to the
litigation. In re Online DVD-Rental Antitrust
Litig., 779 F.3d 934, 948 (9th Cir. 2015).
seeks an incentive award of $17, 310.00, which represents
what she estimates to be 1731 hours worked on this case at
$100 per hour, which is what she claims should be the hourly
rate of a paralegal. See ECF No. 107-2, PageID #
950. But Adams is not a paralegal. That fact is amply
demonstrated by the number of hours she spent working on
certain matters. For example, she says she spent 350 hours
reviewing the summary payroll records and 500 hours
calculating the unpaid overtime payments for 10 sample
plaintiffs. It would appear that a trained paralegal would
have been able to make those calculations much quicker. The
court therefore declines to grant an incentive award to Adams
based on any kind of lodestar method. Nevertheless, the court
determines that a $10, 000 award is appropriate.
modest, single incentive award represents a minuscule amount
of the total settlement amount with the 318 plaintiffs. Given
the complexity of this case and the hundreds of hours Adams
undoubtably spent to help facilitate the settlement and award
to each of the plaintiffs, a $10, 000 award is reasonable and
does not create a conflict of interest with the other
plaintiffs who are not receiving the incentive payment.
See In re Online DVD-Rental Antitrust Litig., 779
F.3d at 947-48 (approving $5, 000 incentive award to each of
nine class representatives when total settlement amount
equaled $27, 250, 000); Aguilar v. Wawona Frozen
Foods, 2017 WL 2214936, at *8 (E.D. Cal. May 19, 2017)
(approving $7, 500 incentive payment to each of two
plaintiffs when award was $4.5 million); Roe v.
Frito-Lay, Inc., 2017 WL 1315626, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Apr.
7, 2017) (approving $5, 000 incentive payment to one
plaintiff when award was $950, 000); Low v. Trump Univ.,
LLC, 2017 WL 1275191, at *16 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2017)
(approving $15, 000 incentive award to each of five
plaintiffs who had expended over 100 hours in connection with
litigation); Hawthorne v. Umpqua Bank, 2015 WL
1927342, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2015) (approving $5, 000
incentive payment to two each of three plaintiffs when award
was $2.9 million); Ko v. Natura Pet Prod., Inc.,
2012 WL 3945541, at *15 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 10, 2012) (approving
$5, 000 incentive award for plaintiff who had expended 50-100
hours in the case).
court is unpersuaded by the City and County of Hawaii's
argument that the award will “impact the morale of the
department.” See ECF No. 109, PageID # 992.
Given the number of hours that Adams spent explaining the
case and settlement to various plaintiffs, it is hard to see
how any of those plaintiffs would begrudge Adams this modest
award, even if it exceeds the total awarded to a particular
court is also unpersuaded by the City and County of
Honolulu's argument that an incentive award in this case
is inappropriate because the cases in which incentive awards
have been approved involved “huge, multi-billion
dollar, multistate/multinational, private, for-profit
corporations.” Id. The City and County of
Honolulu is not some small, non-profit corporation. To the
contrary, the City and County of Honolulu encompasses the
entire island of Oahu where nearly one-million people live.
table/honolulucountyhawaii/PST045216 (estimating Honolulu
population as of July 1, 2016, to be 992, 605) (last visted
August 31, 2017). It has an operating budget of over $2
billion per year. See