The plaintiffs in Martin et al. v. Spring Break ’83 Productions, L.L.C. et al have filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the high court to review the Fifth Circuit decision regarding private Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) settlements and the standard for individual liability under the FLSA.
In Martin, the four plaintiffs, who were members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 478 Union, worked as lighting and rigging technicians on the movie “Spring Break ’83.” After the movie was over, the four plaintiffs filed a grievance with the union claiming they were not paid for all the hours they worked. When the union could not determine the total hours the plaintiffs worked, the Union, representing the plaintiffs, and Spring Break agreed upon a number for hours worked and payment owed and entered into a settlement agreement. Though the settlement agreement included a wavier that the plaintiffs would not bring a future lawsuit against Spring Break, before the settlement was signed by the union the plaintiffs sued Spring Break. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Both courts held that where there is a bona fide dispute as to the amount of hours worked or wages due, a release, such as a settlement agreement, or waiver under such circumstances is enforceable.
If the Supreme Court accepts Martin for review, it could settle the circuit split on this issue. In Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S. the Eleventh Circuit held that FLSA claims may be settled only by court approval or DOL supervision. Lynn follows the precedent set in Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O’Neil, 324 U.S. 697 (1945). The Fifth Circuit said Lynn did not apply because, unlike in Martin, procedural safeguards were not present during settlement.
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