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McNeil v. Faneuil, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

March 21, 2018

TAMMY McNEIL, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FANEUIL, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion and Memorandum for the Award of Attorney's Fees, Expenses, and Costs ("Motion"). Doc. 178. Plaintiffs filed the Motion on May 26, 2017. Id. Defendant responded in opposition on May 31, 2017. Doc. 190.

         On June 8, 2017, the Court ordered that this case be referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for a report of proposed findings and recommendations as to the appropriate award of attorney's fees. Doc. 192. The Magistrate Judge ordered additional briefing. Doc. 193, and subsequently held a hearing on the Motion on July 24, 2017, Doc. 201. On November 8, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") regarding the Motion. Doc. 208. The R&R recommends that the Court GRANT the Motion IN PART, allowing Plaintiffs total attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $696, 064. See Doc. 208 at 26.

         On November 22, 2017, both Parties filed Objections to the R&R. See Docs. 210, 211. The Court held a hearing on the Parties' objections on March 14, 2018. For the reasons stated herein and on the record, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiffs' and Defendant's objections, and ADOPTS the findings and recommendations of the R&R in their entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This is a collective action brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C, §§ 201 et seq. The named Plaintiff, Tammy McNeil ("McNeil") filed an Amended Complaint on November 18, 2015, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated employees (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), against Defendant Faneuil, Inc. ("Defendant"). Doc. 24 ("Compl."), Defendant is a Delaware corporation with its principal office in Hampton, VA, and "employs thousands of individuals nationwide who work handling telephone calls on behalf of [its] clients." Compl. ¶ 8.

         Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant's call center employees were not compensated for time worked at the beginning and end of their shifts and meal breaks, in violation of the FLSA. Id. ¶¶ 2, 30, 40, 51-55. This was allegedly due to several time-keeping policies, such as a policy that rounded employees' time to the nearest quarter hour. Id. ¶ 15. Call center workers were prohibited from clocking in more than five minutes prior to the scheduled start of their shift and were also punished for clocking in late. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Plaintiffs alleged that these policies disproportionately favored Defendant at the expense of its employees and resulted in wage compensation for less than the actual time worked. Id. ¶ 17.

         Upon the Court's conditional certification of a nationwide class, over one thousand (1, 000) individuals opted into this case. Doc. 195 at 2, 4. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from four (4) law firms: Christian L. Connell, P.C., Yezbak Law Offices, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC, and Mays & Kerr LLC.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on July 31, 2015, Doc. 1, and moved for conditional class certification on October 14, 2015, Doc. 14. Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint on November 6, 2015, Doc. 20, and Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on November 18, 2015. Doc. 24. Defendant moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on December 14, 2015. Doc. 36. On March 1, 2016, the Court held a hearing on the Motion for Conditional Class Certification and the Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 54. The Court denied the Motion to Dismiss and granted Plaintiffs' request for conditional certification, only as to employees in Virginia. Docs. 55, 56. After additional discovery on the certification issue, Plaintiffs again moved for conditional certification of a nationwide class, Doc. 85, which the Court granted, Doc. 105.

         The Parties filed a variety of discovery motions between August of 2016 and April of 2017, and Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on April 7, 2017. Doc. 158. Before the summary judgment motion was fully briefed, the Parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement and wished to schedule a settlement approval hearing. Doc. 165. At the settlement approval hearing on May 10, 2017, the Court found that the case had not settled and ordered the Parties to engage in a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Miller, Docs. 171, 173.

         On May 26, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion for attorney's fees, expenses, and costs. Doc. 178. At the settlement conference with Judge Miller on June 6, 2017, the Parties "reached an agreement on all of the matters set for trial, except that they reserved the issue of determining reasonable attorneys' fees to this Court." Doc. 192 at 1. Specifically, the Parties agreed that Defendant will pay $285, 000 "in full settlement of [Plaintiffs'] claims for wages, liquidated damages, and service payments to class members, " and that Plaintiffs constitute a prevailing party under the FLSA. Doc. 194, Ex. 1 at 1.

         On June 8, 2017, the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge for a R&R regarding the Parties' Joint Motion for Settlement Approval, Doc. 194, and the instant Motion, Doc. 178. Doc. 192. The Magistrate Judge held a hearing on both Motions on July 24, 2017. On September 25, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a R&R recommending that the settlement be approved, Doc. 207, which the Court adopted, Doc. 212. On November 8, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a R&R regarding the instant Motion. Doc. 208. Both Parties filed Objections to the R&R on November 22, 2017. Docs. 210, 211. Both Parties filed Responses to each other's Objections on December 6, 2017. Docs. 213, 214.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Recommendation

         If objections to a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation are timely filed, the District Judge "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The District Judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id. The District Judge "may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.

         B. Fees and Costs Under the FLSA

         In an FLSA action, a court "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 the costs of the action." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). "The payment of attorney's fees to employees prevailing in FLSA cases is mandatory." Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141 (4th Cir. 1984). Plaintiffs are considered to have prevailed for the purpose of awarding attorneys' fees "if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation ...


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