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Haught v. The Wireless Center, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

May 18, 2017



          Henry E. Hudson, United States District Judge

         This is an action for unpaid overtime wages and damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. It is presently before the Court on Plaintiff Kimberly Haught's ("Plaintiff) Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs. (ECF No. 12.) For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be granted, but not to the full extent requested. Plaintiff will be awarded $6, 991.65 in attorneys' fees and $445.67 in costs.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 30, 2016, Plaintiff brought this action against her former employer, The Wireless Center, Inc. ("Defendant"). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) In her one-count Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant promoted her to "Manager/Manager in Training" in order to avoid paying her overtime for the time that she worked in excess of forty hours per week. (See generally id.)

         Plaintiff properly served Defendant on December 2, 2016, and filed a signed proof of service on December 7, 2016. (ECF No. 3.) Defendant failed to answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint within twenty-one days of service, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a). Accordingly, at Plaintiffs request, the Clerk of the Court entered default on December 30, 2016. (ECF No. 5.) On March 29, 2017, Plaintiff moved for default judgement, which the Court granted on April 13, 2017. (ECF Nos. 9, 11.) The Court awarded Plaintiff a judgment of $2, 265.06, consisting of $1, 132.53 in back wages for 157.5 hours of overtime and an equivalent amount of liquidated damages.

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion on May 3, 2017. She requests that the Court grant her $8, 448.50 in attorneys' fees and $445.67 in costs, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).[1] Defendant has filed no response to the Motion.


         A prevailing plaintiff in an FLSA action "is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs." Jackson v. Estelle's Place, LLC, 391 F.App'x 239, 242 (4th Cir. 2010) (unpublished opinion); see 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The Court has the discretion to determine what constitutes reasonable attorney's fees. Lyle v. Food Lion, Inc., 954 F.2d 984, 989 (4th Cir. 1992); see also Robinson v. Equifax Info. Services, LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009) ("We review an award of attorney's fees for abuse of discretion. 'Our review of the district court's award is sharply circumscribed; we have recognized that because a district court has close and intimate knowledge of the efforts expended and the value of the services rendered, the fee award must not be overturned unless it is clearly wrong.'") (quoting Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273, 277-78 (4th Cir. 1990)) (internal citation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         When determining an award of attorneys' fees, the Court must first multiply the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Robinson, 560 F.3d at 243. This approach, commonly called the lodestar method, generates a presumptively reasonable fee. Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 564 (1986). In determining what constitutes a reasonable number of hours and billing rate, the Fourth Circuit has instructed that a district court's discretion should be guided by the following twelve factors:

(1) the time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6) the attorney's expectations at the out-set of the litigation; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney; (10) the undesirability of the case within the legal community in which the suit arose; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship between attorney and client; and (12) attorneys' fees awards in similar cases.

Robinson, 560 F.3d at 243-44.

         While the lodestar provides a presumptively reasonable fee, its calculation "does not end the inquiry." Lyle, 954 F.2d at 989 (quoting Del. Valley Citizens' Council, 478 U.S. at 565). The district court has discretion to adjust the fee upward or downward as it deems appropriate, so long as it is "done on a principled basis, clearly explained by the court." Id. For example, the Court "should subtract fees for hours spent on unsuccessful claims unrelated to successful ...

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