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Judge says no to ‘confidential’ settlement

Abingdon U.S. District Court Judge James Jones yesterday refused to approve two settlement agreements in an overtime pay case because the parties insisted on confidentiality.

Cynthia Murphy and Teresa Hale worked for Dollar General Stores. They sued Dolgencorp Inc., alleging they did not fall within the executive exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The parties told the judge they were willing to let him take a peek at the exact amount of the settlements, or the settlement agreements themselves.

But Jones said in camera inspection was “the functional equivalent of a filing under seal.”

In an FLSA case, the public’s right of access to judicial records and documents applies with particular force to settlement agreements, Jones wrote.

“[S]imply not wanting others to know of the details of a settlement is not sufficient cause,” Jones said in Murphy v. Dolgencorp. Inc.
By Deborah Elkins

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