In the Eastern District of Virginia, the Honorable T.S. Ellis, III, decided that it was in the best interests of the public at large to not keep the settlement of an overtime case brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) confidential and under seal. In Miles v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc., Case No.: 1:11cv135, Judge Ellis determined that the public policy of “judicial transparency” and the “strong presumption of public access to judicial records” outweighed the parties’ interests in keeping the settlement agreement they reached confidential and under seal. So, even though the parties agreed to a confidential settlement, Judge Ellis rejected that portion of the settlement agreement and allowed the parties to decide whether they wanted to agree to or renegotiate the balance of the settlement terms.
While this Court’s decision to not accept the parties’ agreement to keep the terms of their settlement confidential is not yet the norm, there is no telling what other Federal Judges sitting in sister District Courts will do under similar situations.
Employees can only hope that other Judges also will refuse to seal cases – so that they too can find out about those employers who have violated the FLSA by not paying employees the overtime wages they earned.
Employers, on the other hand, should view this decision as a yet another reason to negotiate and resolve FLSA overtime claims before suit is filed. Without a lawsuit, there is no requirement that the Court approve a settlement – which means that there is no reasonable possibility of a Federal Judge refusing to honor an agreement reached between two (or more) contracting parties.
The FairLaw Firm focuses on representing employees and on helping them recover the overtime wages, overtime pay, unpaid wages, and minimum wages they earned. The FairLaw Firm can help employees negotiate and resolve their unpaid overtime, wage, and minimum wage claims out of court if possible.
Contact Brian H. Pollock, Esq., at the FairLaw Firm at (305) 400-4903 in Miami for questions or concerns about overtime, minimum wage, or wage claims in and around Miami, or to arrange for a free consultation.