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Labor – FLSA – Attorney’s Fees – Overtime Pay

A commercial real estate company that settled Fair Labor Standards Act overtime pay claims with seven former property accountants in the Norfolk office is ordered by the Norfolk U.S. District Court to pay $139,668 for plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees, but no costs.

The instant case arises out of a claim for overtime pay under 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. Defendant is a commercial real estate services company incorporated in Florida that specializes in brokerage, property management and general contracting for construction. Plaintiffs are seven former employees who worked as property accountants in the Norfolk office. On May 7, 2008, the parties submitted an agreed order of dismissal in part, that all claims made by all plaintiffs are dismissed with prejudice as settled, with the sole exception of any claim for an award of attorney’s fees and costs. The parties stipulated that plaintiffs shall be deemed to be prevailing parties in this litigation and as such are entitled to petition for attorney’s fees and costs.

Plaintiffs’ counsel, Employment Law Group PC, requests that it be awarded $161,439 in fees and $7,114.71 in costs.

The court finds the issues were moderately difficult to research and argue. The issues in this case involved plaintiffs’ claims of misclassification under the FLSA while employed with defendant. ELG engaged in significant discovery in order to determine the qualifications defendant required when hiring a property accountant, the duties completed by clients during their employment and the amount of overtime worked. Because defendant did not record the hours worked by the employees in this case, ELG thoroughly analyzed defendant’s FLSA classifications and examined voluminous daily parking and attendance records to determine the amount of overtime compensation due.

The court reduces the attorneys’ requested hourly rates, to range from $110 per hour for legal assistant time, to associate time at $175 per hour and partner time at $295 per hour. The court finds that plaintiffs’ lawyers zealously advocated plaintiffs and did not exercise poor billing judgment. Also, the court finds the award of attorney fees encourages the vindication of employees’ rights and notes that a substantial reduction based on the amount of damages awarded to plaintiffs would serve as an incredible disincentive for attorneys to accept FLSA cases.

However, the court declines to award costs to plaintiffs, finding that ELG has failed to comply with Local Rule 54(D)(1) because it has not submitted documentation supporting the requested costs and it has not “distinctly set forth” the nature of the every cost submitted to the court. Many of the costs submitted by ELG would not be permitted even if ELG submitted supporting documentation.

Castel v. Advantis Real Estate Services Co. (Jackson, J.) No. 2:07cv435, Aug. 8, 2008; USDC at Norfolk, Va. VLW 008-3-326, 13 pp.

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