Federal judge approves security guard class action settlement; Lawyer fees $125K

By Jon Campisi | Nov 13, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has approved of a settlement in a class action case in

which plaintiffs who worked as security guards for Securitas Security Services USA claimed the defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act when it required the class members to perform certain job duties without compensation.

Frankie Williams, Kimberly Ord and Matthew Devine filed suit against the security firm in December 2010 on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated over allegations that the defendant failed to compensate the employees for overtime hours worked.

In their collective action, the plaintiffs claimed that they failed to be paid for work in connection with new hire orientation, post-hire training, shift changes at their worksites and maintaining their company-issued uniforms.

A judge subsequently certified only the new hire orientation claim.

The plaintiffs then added their state PMWA claim.

In a Nov. 8 memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle, III, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted the unopposed joint motion for final approval of the settlement, and the unopposed plaintiffs’ motion for final approval of the proposed incentive, fee and expense awards in the case.

In doing so, Bartle allowed $240,000 to be paid out by Securitas Security Services to settle the case.

The settlement includes $100,000 to participating class members, $15,000 each to the named plaintiffs, and $125,000 in lawyers’ fees, costs and expenses.

Background information contained within the judicial memorandum shows that the parties reached the $240,000 settlement following “vigorous negotiations,” including a full day of mediation with a former federal court magistrate judge.

The settlement consisted of back wages to 1,242 class members totaling $100,000, payments of $5,000 to each of the named plaintiffs and $125,000 to the various plaintiffs’ attorneys who worked on the litigation.

Court papers state that the back wages were calculated by multiplying the number of class numbers by the number of hours of new hire orientation and then by the minimum wage in effect at the time.

That product was then multiplied by a factor of two for liquidated damages for the FLSA claim and by a factor or 1.25 for the PMWA claim.

Back wages are covered from the period of Oct. 15, 2008, the date on which the parties agreed to toll the statute of limitation, to Jan. 7, 2010, which is when the defendant began paying for new hire orientation.

Attorneys maintained that they worked more than 463 hours on the litigation. Their hourly rates were between $375 and $600; non-lawyer hourly rates were between $125 and $200.

The court preliminarily approved the settlement this past July, with final approval given following a Nov. 6 hearing.

In his memorandum and order, Bartle wrote that the settlement figures are “reasonable and adequate and provide recovery for all of the class members.

“We find that the settlement reflects good faith negotiations between the parties as to the reasonable valuation of the plaintiffs’ claims and the attorneys’ fees expended,” the judge wrote. “It was not fraudulent or collusive, and it factored in the complexity, risk, and expense of the litigation.”

Bartle further wrote that the sum for attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses was “vigorously negotiated and significantly reduced from the lodestar amount. Moreover, no class member objected to the settlement or requested to be excluded from it.”

The approval of the settlement ends the litigation.

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