United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. Sullivan United States District Judge.
Julio Cesar Abrego filed a complaint against defendants Yu
Lin, Corporation and its owner, Yu Lin,  alleging that
defendants failed to pay him overtime wages due to him under
the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the D.C.
Minimum Wage Revision Act, and the D.C. Wage Payment and
Collection Law. Pending before the Court is defendants'
motion to dismiss on the ground that Mr. Abrego's lawsuit
is barred by a settlement agreement between the parties. Upon
consideration of defendants' motion, the response and
reply thereto, and the applicable case law, the Court
DENIES defendants' motion to dismiss.
November 2015 and October 2017, Mr. Abrego was an employee of
One Fish, Two Fish, a restaurant in the District of Columbia
owned and operated by defendants. Compl., ECF No. 1
¶¶ 3-4, 12. Mr. Abrego alleges that he typically
worked at the restaurant six days a week for approximately
eleven and a half hours a day, for a total of sixty-nine
hours a week. Id. ¶ 13. For this work, Mr.
Abrego claims that he was paid $450 in cash each week,
although “in the last few months of his employment,
” his salary was raised to $725 every week.
Id. ¶ 15. He claims that this wage
“violated Federal and District of Columbia overtime
compensation laws because Defendants failed to pay Plaintiff
overtime wages at the time-and-one-half rate for hours worked
per week over forty.” Id. ¶ 16. Based on
his calculations, Mr. Abrego claims that defendants owe him
$55, 000 in unpaid overtime wages. Id. ¶ 17.
to filing suit, Mr. Abrego's counsel sent a
pre-litigation demand letter for settlement purposes to
defendants. See Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 1, ECF No. 8-1.
In that letter, Mr. Abrego's counsel explained that,
although Mr. Abrego worked sixty nine hours a week for One
Fish, Two Fish, he had only been paid an average of $500 each
week. Id. Counsel asserted that One Fish, Two
Fish's failure to pay Mr. Abrego overtime wages violated
federal and District of Columbia laws, and he explained that
those laws permitted Mr. Abrego to recover four times his
unpaid wages in liquidated damages - which would have
amounted to approximately $217, 500 - in addition to
attorney's fees. Id. Counsel proposed settling
the matter for $137, 000, which was approximately two and a
half times Mr. Abrego's unpaid wages plus $2000 in
attorney's fees and costs. Id.
did not respond to the pre-litigation demand letter, and on
November 2, 2017, Mr. Abrego filed the instant suit. See
generally Compl., ECF No. 1. The next day, on November
3, 2017, Mr. Abrego allegedly signed an agreement settling
his employment claims against defendants for $6, 000.
See Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 8 at 2-3. The agreement
contains a provision releasing all disputes between
Mr. Abrego and Yu Lin, Corporation and its owner. Def.'s
Reply, ECF No. 9 at 3. This settlement agreement was made
“outside the knowledge of [plaintiff's] counsel and
without the assistance of his counsel.” Pl.'s Opp.,
ECF No. 8 at 2.
December 8, 2017, defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the
ground that Mr. Abrego had released his employment claims
when he signed the settlement agreement. Def.'s Mot. to
Dismiss, ECF No. 6. That motion is now ripe and ready for the
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) “tests the legal sufficiency of a
complaint.” Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235,
242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). While detailed factual allegations are not
necessary, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to
“raise a right to relief above the speculative
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider
“the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached
as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint,
and matters about which the Court may take judicial
notice.” Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226
F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002). The Court must accept as
true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint and must give the plaintiff the “benefit of
all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.” Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16
F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Importantly, the Court need
not accept inferences that are “unsupported by the
facts set out in the complaint.” Id.
“Nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast in
the form of factual allegations.” Id.
“[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for
relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
alleges defendants violated the FLSA, the D.C. Minimum Wage
Revision Act, and the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law.
See Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 21-35. With
respect to employers' liability, the District of Columbia
statutes are construed consistently with the FLSA.
Thompson v. Linda And A., Inc., 779 F.Supp.2d 139,
146 (D.D.C. 2011). Defendants only argument in their motion
to dismiss is that Mr. Abrego's claims must be dismissed
because plaintiff “has reached a Settlement
Agreement” that contains a release of his claims.
See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 6; see
also Def's Reply, ECF No. 9 at 1 (“Plaintiff,
Julio Cesar Abrego, has negotiated a solid Settlement
Agreement with Mr. Zou and Yu Lin Corp. a.k.a. One Fish Two
Fish all by himself.”); id. at 3-4 (“The
most important issue is that if both parties settle the
matter, there is no need for the court to get
enacted the FLSA “to protect certain groups of the
population from substandard wages and excessive hours”
that can result from the “unequal bargaining power as
between employer and employee.” Brooklyn Savings
Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706 (1945). To that
end, because allowing “waiver of statutory wages by
agreement would nullify the purposes of the Act, ”
id. at 707, the provisions of the FLSA are
“‘mandatory and generally are not subject to
bargaining, waiver, or modification by contract or
settlement, '” Sarceno v. Choi, 66
F.Supp.3d 157, 166 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Duprey v.
Scotts Co. LLC, 30 F.Supp.3d 404, 407 (D. Md. 2014));
see also Beard v. D.C. Hous. Auth., 584 F.Supp.2d
139, 143 (D.D.C. 2008) (“It is a long-held view that
FLSA rights cannot be abridged or otherwise waived by
contract because such private settlements would allow parties
to circumvent the purposes of the statute by agreeing on
sub-minimum wages.”). In other words,
“protections for employees trump any purported
settlement or waiver of the employees' rights to bring
suit for FLSA violations.” Carrillo v. Dandan,
Inc., 51 F.Supp.3d 124, 128 (D.D.C. 2014); cf.
Sarceno, 66 F.Supp.3d at 166 (“typical tenets of
contract law do not apply to FLSA settlements”).
with these principles, other courts in this district have
found that a private settlement agreement in an FLSA suit is
only enforceable if the agreement “resolves a bona fide
dispute between the parties and the terms of the settlement
are fair and reasonable.” Sarceno, 66
F.Supp.3d at 170 (citing Martin v. Spring Break ‘83
Productions, 688 F.3d 247 (5th Cir. 2012)). A settlement
resolves a bona fide dispute if it “reflects a
reasonable compromise over issues that are
since merely waiving a right to wages owed is
disallowed.” Carrillo, 51 F.Supp.3d at 132
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted, emphasis
added). If the Court determines that the threshold