United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge
MATTER is before the court on plaintiff's Motion
to Approve Attorneys' Fees & Expenses Pursuant to the
Parties' Settlement Agreement (#330) and the joint Motion
for Final Approval of Settlement Agreement (#331). Having
considered plaintiff's motion and reviewed the pleadings,
the court enters the following Order.
Motion for Final Approval of Settlement Agreement
March 14, 2018, hearing, the Court heard arguments from
counsel concerning the settlement. The Court also considered
the nature and form of notice provided, the efficacy of the
notice, the number of opt-outs or requests for exclusions,
the number of objections, and the fact that an opportunity to
be heard for class members was provided and none appeared.
The Court concludes that the proposed settlement is fair and
reasonable to Class Members when balanced against the
probable outcome of further litigation, liability and damages
issues, and the potential appeal of any rulings.
Court has personal jurisdiction over the Parties and all
Settlement Class Members, and has subject-matter jurisdiction
over this Action, including, without limitation, jurisdiction
to approve the proposed settlement, to settle and release all
claims arising out of the transactions alleged in
Plaintiffs' complaint in the Action, and to dismiss this
Action on the merits and with prejudice.
History of the Proceedings
current proceedings began nearly 15 years ago when 49 female
Store Managers and their counsel filed EEOC Charges which
alleged a pattern and practice of discriminatory wages paid
to women as a class at Family Dollar since July 2, 2002.
Plaintiffs alleged that Family Dollar discriminates against
female Store Managers by paying them less than men are paid
for the same job in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The EEOC
eventually issued right-to-sue letters which led to the
filing of this case as a putative nationwide class action.
The case was transferred to this Court from the Northern
District of Alabama in 2008 and has been vigorously litigated
over the last ten years, including multiple motions to
dismiss the class allegations, formal and informal discovery
of such allegations, an unsuccessful mediation in 2011, a
renewed motion to strike the class allegations in light of
the Supreme Court's decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541 (2011), briefing and argument
on Plaintiffs' motion to amend the class allegations to
meet the requirements of Wal-Mart, appeal of the
decision dismissing the original class allegations and
denying Plaintiffs' amendment, briefing Family
Dollar's Petition for Certiorari to the Supreme
Court, extensive discovery and statistical analysis on
remand, preparation of briefs and evidentiary submissions in
support of class certification, arbitration and notice to the
class, and then a second round of mediation in March, 2017.
not a case in which the Parties reached an early or easy
settlement. Instead, this has been a hard-fought case in
which both sides worked diligently to gather and interpret
information and to represent their clients in discovery, in
litigating class certification, in preparation for trial, and
later in mediation. The Mediator, Mark Rudy, determined and
proposed the terms of settlement once the Parties left the
2017 mediation without reaching settlement for a second time.
Mr. Rudy is a distinguished, highly respected professional
who has had substantial experience in mediating complex class
actions similar to this case. The formal mediation
proceedings took place for two days in March 2017 in San
Francisco and ended with a double-blind Mediator's
proposal which the Parties' subsequently accepted. From
March through October the parties communicated with Mr. Rudy
separately and continued to negotiate until the final details
of the settlement agreement were documented in the Settlement
Agreement now pending before the Court.
reaching such an agreement, the Parties continued to
negotiate and finalize the procedural and logistical details
needed to embody and document their agreement as well as the
supporting documents (e.g., Class Notice) for the agreement.
Court finds that the notice provided to Class Members,
including direct mail notice, is in accordance with the terms
of the Settlement and this Court's Preliminary Approval
Order dated November 14, 2017, and thereby constituted the
best practicable notice to Settlement Class Members under the
circumstances of this Action, constituted reasonable, due,
adequate, and sufficient notice to all persons and entities
entitled to be provided with notice and otherwise fully
satisfied the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the United States Constitution (including the Due
Process Clause), and the Rules of this Court.
to the Preliminary Approval Order, the Settlement
Administrator appointed by the Court (Settlement Services,
Inc./Garden City Group, Inc.) gave direct notice of the
proposed settlement to the Settlement Class Members in this
case. The class list of Notice recipients was determined
using employment data provided by Family Dollar and data
gathered by Class Counsel during the course of litigation.
The Court finds that the notice plan was reasonably
calculated, under the circumstances, to apprise Settlement
Class Members of: (a) the nature of the action; (b) the
definition of the class certified; (c) a description of the
class claims, issues, and defenses; (d) the identities of the
Parties; (e) a summary of the terms of the proposed
Settlement, including the amount of attorneys' fees and
expenses contemplated to be paid to Plaintiffs' Counsel;
(f) notice that the Settlement Class Members may object to
the proposed settlement and appear at the Final Fairness
Hearing or opt-out of the settlement altogether; (g)
information regarding the manner in which objections or
opt-outs can be submitted; and (h) the binding effect of the
class judgment and the scope of release of class and
individual claims. As such, the Court finds that the Notice
fully satisfied the requirements of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, including Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
23(c)(2) and (e), the United States Constitution (including
the Due Process Clause), the rules of this Court, and all
other applicable laws, and thereby provided sufficient notice
to bind all Settlement Class Members, regardless of whether a
particular Settlement Class Member received actual notice.