United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
DANA COOPER, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
INTEGRITY HOME CARE, INC., Defendant.
ORDER CONDITIONALLY CERTIFYING SETTLEMENT CLASS AND
GRANTING PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO PROPOSED CLASS ACTION
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
action arises from Plaintiff Dana Cooper's
(“Cooper”), for herself and on behalf of a class
of similarly situated individuals, allegations that Defendant
Integrity Home Care, Inc. (“Integrity”),
unlawfully withheld overtime wages from hourly, non-exempt
home healthcare workers in violation of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et
seq., and the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”),
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 290.550, et seq.
before the Court is the parties' joint motion for
preliminary approval of a class action settlement (Doc. 111)
and the parties' joint response to Court's request
for additional information (Doc. 116). The parties seek Court
approval of a comprehensive settlement (“the Settlement
Agreement”) consisting of 1) an FLSA collective action
opt-in settlement, and 2) a Rule 23 class action settlement.
Finding that a settlement class should be conditionally
certified and that the Settlement Agreement is bona fide,
fair, reasonable, and adequate, the motion for preliminary
approval is GRANTED.
Procedural and Factual History
provides healthcare services in private homes in order to
help an individual manage special health needs, injury,
chronic illness, aging, infirmity, or disability. Home
healthcare services may include care from personal care aides
(“PCA”) or advanced personal care aides
(“APCA”). PCAs provide “a wide variety of
services including, but not necessarily limited to,
companionship, respite, meal preparation, transportation,
assistance with house work, arranging for medical care, and
assistance with activities of daily living including
dressing, grooming, toileting, feeding, laundry and
bathing.” Stepp Aff., Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 13 (Doc.
19-1). APCAs “provide additional services including,
but not necessarily limited to, ostomy care, catheter care,
bowel programs, and range of motion services, among other
things.” Id. ¶ 14.
began working for Integrity as a PCA in February of 2002.
Cooper Aff., Pl.'s Ex. D at 1 (Doc. 11-4). It is
undisputed that Plaintiff was exempt from the overtime pay
requirements of the FLSA until 2015. A Department of Labor
(“DOL”) Final Rule set to take effect on January
1, 2015, may have entitled Cooper, other PCAs, and APCAs to
overtime pay under the FLSA. But, because the new rule was
vacated before it was set to take effect and only later
reinstated by the courts, Integrity did not begin paying its
PCAs and APCAs overtime until November 12, 2015.
filed this lawsuit on December 14, 2016, alleging that
Integrity unlawfully withheld overtime wages from hourly,
non-exempt home healthcare workers in violation of the FLSA
and the MMWL. Integrity's answer denied all material
allegations and set forth affirmative defenses. (Doc. 10). On
May 9, 2017, the Court conditionally certified a FLSA
collective action (Doc. 47), which resulted in a class of
approximately 138 opt-in plaintiffs. On May 10, 2017, the
parties held a mediation and reached a tentative settlement.
On June 16, 2017, this Court denied Integrity's motion to
dismiss, which argued that the DOL Final Rule did not require
payment of overtime wages until November 12, 2015. (Doc. 65).
Summary of the Settlement
settlement postulates two types of class members: FLSA opt-in
plaintiffs and MMWL Rule 23 claimants. For both FLSA opt-in
plaintiffs and Rule 23 claimants who submit a valid claim
form, Integrity will pay seventy-five percent of the alleged
unpaid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours
per week at any time from January 1, 2015 to November 12,
2015, paid at the rate of one-half the regular rate of pay
for each individual. Checks not cashed within 180 days of
issuance will be voided and proceeds will be paid to the
State of Missouri Unclaimed Property Fund in the name of any
individual whose check remains uncashed.
parties have hired Analytics Consulting, LLC as the
Settlement Administrator. Integrity will pay the settlement
administration costs. In addition to notifying class members
of the settlement and calculating settlement amounts,
Analytics Consulting will establish a toll free telephone
line and a website to answer class members' questions and
provide information about the Settlement Agreement.
Consulting will also send to each class member who did not
previously opt-in a notice informing them of their right to
participate in the settlement and the calculations for
determining the settlement amount they are entitled to
receive. Any class member who timely opts out by submitting a
valid exclusion will not be paid any amount and will not
release any federal or Missouri state law claims.
parties agree that if all eligible class members make claims,
$174, 405.76 in total payments would be made to the class.
However, the parties estimate that between 233 and 310 (about
30% to 40% of eligible class members) claims will be made,
resulting in between $52, 321.73 and $69, 762.30 paid to the
parties agree that Cooper-as class representative-will
receive a service award of $2, 500 for her efforts in
prosecuting the case. Integrity also agrees not to oppose
Plaintiff counsel's motion for approval of their fees,
costs, and expenses, not to exceed $96, 263.05.
The FLSA Collective Action Settlement
The standard governing court approval of a FLSA collective
settlement of an FLSA claim requires Department of Labor or
court approval. Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United
States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). “To
approve an FLSA settlement, the Court must find that: (1) the
litigation involves a bona fide wage and hour dispute; (2)
the proposed settlement is fair and equitable to all parties
concerned; and (3) the proposed settlement contains an award
of reasonable attorneys' fees.” Hill v. World
Wide Tech. Holding Co., No. 4:11CV02108-AGF, 2012 WL
5285927, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 25, 2012) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). To determine whether an FLSA
settlement is fair and equitable, courts use many of the same
factors used in evaluating a proposed Rule 23 class action
settlement, including: (1) at what stage of the litigation
the settlement was reached, and the complexity, expense, and
likely duration of the remaining litigation; (2) how the
settlement was negotiated, i.e., whether there are
any indicia of collusion; (3) class counsel, the parties, and
the class ...