United States District Court, D. Minnesota
CHRISHAWN JOHNSON and GAVIN BRANDT, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
THOMSON REUTERS, doing business as FindLaw, Defendant.
Christopher D. Jozwiak, Scott Moriarity, and Shawn J. Wanta,
BAILLON THOME JOZWIAK & WANTA LLP, for plaintiffs.
E. Ellingstad, LOCKRIDGE GRINDAL NAUEN PLLP, for defendant.
Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge.
Chrishawn Johnson and Gavin Brandt are the named plaintiffs
in this collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”). They have asked the Court to approve a
settlement between plaintiffs and defendant Thomson Reuters.
ECF No. 50. For the reasons that follow, the settlement is
approved, and plaintiffs' claims are dismissed.
are Account Managers who work or formerly worked in the
FindLaw division of Thomson Reuters. ECF No. 37 at ¶ 2.
FindLaw Account Managers are generally responsible for
“[e]nsur[ing] client retention and satisfaction”
by providing “all clients” with “first
class customer care.” ECF No. 1 at ¶¶
10(a)-(b). Account Managers are also responsible for
identifying and successfully pursuing various sales
opportunities; in the jargon of their workplace, they
“[i]dentify and provide up-sell and cross sell lead
opportunities to field partners” and “[s]ecure
contract renewals for [an] assigned portfolio of
customers.” Id. at ¶¶ 10(d)-(e).
and Brandt allege that Account Managers were improperly
classified as exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions
prior to January 3, 2018, and thus were not paid overtime
wages, even though they “regularly worked more than 40
hours each workweek.” Id. at ¶¶ 1-2,
12, 25. Instead, Johnson and Brandt allege, Account Managers
received only “a base salary, non-discretionary
incentive compensation, [and] participation in an employee
incentive plan” (along with other “fringe
benefits”). Id. at ¶ 11.
January 3, 2018, Thomson Reuters reclassified the Account
Manager position as non-exempt and began paying overtime
wages to Account Managers. Id. at ¶ 13. Thomson
Reuters also offered to pay the Account Managers back pay for
any overtime worked during the two years preceding January 3,
2018. Id. at ¶ 29. Thomson Reuters calculated
each Account Manager's back-pay offer by multiplying the
number of overtime hours reported by the Account Manager by
one-half of the Account Manager's regular rate of pay.
and Brandt brought this action on behalf of themselves and
similarly situated Account Managers because they believe that
Thomson Reuters's offer fails to fully compensate them
for the overtime compensation that they would have earned had
they not been classified as exempt. Johnson and Brandt argue
that Thomson Reuters's offer is insufficient for two main
reasons: First, the offer does not include liquidated
damages. Second, the offer does not pay for past overtime at
1.5 times the regular rate of pay. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 30.
parties agreed to conditional certification of the collective
(ECF Nos. 35, 37), and all potential plaintiffs received
notice of this action by email (ECF No. 37 at ¶ 6).
Seventeen other Account Managers opted in to the litigation,
joining Johnson and Brandt as plaintiffs. ECF Nos. 6-8, 10,
12, 14-15, 23, 31, 33, 39-45. One of those Account Managers
subsequently opted out. ECF No. 47. Now, after informal
discovery and a full-day settlement conference with
Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, the parties have reached a
settlement calls for Thomson Reuters to pay a total of $120,
000 in liquidated damages to the FLSA collective. ECF No.
52-1 at 7. To reach that number, the parties took the number
of overtime hours that the Account Managers reported working
during the period from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017,
multiplied that number by one-half of the regular rate of pay
of the Account Managers, and added an enhancement of
approximately one percent. ECF No. 52 at ¶ 6; ECF No. 51
at 3. The regular rate of pay was calculated using the
Account Managers' base salaries plus non-discretionary
incentive payments. ECF No. 51 at 6. In exchange for this
payment of liquidated damages, the opt-in plaintiffs agree to
waive “any and all past claims for overtime payment
[they] may or do have against Thomson Reuters that accrued
before September 13, 2018.” ECF No. 52-1 at p. 8,
¶ c. The settlement also calls for each named plaintiff
to receive a service award of $5, 000 and for Thomson Reuters
to reimburse $95, 000 of plaintiffs' attorney's fees
and costs. Id. at p. 7, ¶¶ b-c.
Standard of Review
parties have asked the Court to approve their
settlement. The Court thus reviews the settlement to
ensure that there is a bona fide dispute under the FLSA and
that the settlement “is a fair and reasonable
resolution of [that] bona fide dispute.” Lynn's
Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1355
(11th Cir. 1982); see also Stainbrook v. Minn. Dep't
of Pub. Safety, 239 F.Supp.3d 1123, 1126 (D. Minn.