Judge issues letter in Welcome Inn case
US Magistrate Judge Eric Long has issued a letter to counsel in the Welcome Inn case that could be near settlement.
In a Jan. 28 letter, Judge Long set out what needed to be done before the settlement conference scheduled for Feb. 22.
The judge posed several questions that required an answer prior to the conference, including whether the parties want the settlement terms on the record and how soon the checks and closing documents could be received.
The court is seeking to settle the case to save time and avoid costly litigation. The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants Jan. 28, 2017. Since then, many documents have been filed with the court.
Plaintiffs April R. Brashier, Richard M. Orencia, and Chad Lebow filed a lawsuit against Quincy Property LLC, doing business as “Welcome Inn,” and against Brett Burge, Kenneth Logan, Quentin Kearney and Joe Wimberly under FLSA and Illinois Wage Laws. The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 28, 2017, alleges the plaintiffs worked at the defendants’ hotels and weren’t paid overtime due under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA.
The plaintiffs further allege they were misclassified as salaried employees exempt from FLSA, and that the defendants illegally deducted amounts from their pay in violation of FLSA.
Under FLSA, employees may bring a collective action against an employer to recover unpaid overtime or minimum wages. Unlike class action suits under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, whereby potential plaintiffs are included unless they opt out, potential plaintiffs in FLSA collective actions must affirmatively opt in to the suit, according to Cornell Law School.
Brashier claims in court documents she was unjustly terminated at Welcome Inn for complaining about a lack of overtime pay, and threatened with illegal wage deductions.
Lebow alleges the defendants also retaliated against him. He claims they reduced his wages and/or tried to intimidate him by “strictly scrutinizing his work because he requested overtime pay.”
Judge Long requests
Judge Long also asked the parties what will happen if they don’t settle the case and if they have any alternative to a negotiated settlement.
“Also, it is important that you conduct meaningful settlement negotiations, including a demand by the Plaintiff(s) and an offer by the Defendant(s), prior to the settlement conference,” Long wrote. “If as a result of those negotiations you determine that the case cannot be settled, please notify me immediately. I do not want to compel you and your clients to engage in a hopeless exercise.”
Long also question whether there was valid insurance coverage, and if so, what amount. “If coverage is at issue, or the amount/type affects settlement value, have you notified the other side? Do we need to include the representative from more than one company/carrier?”
The parties with ultimate settlement authority must be personally present at the settlement conference, Long said.