The Supreme Court denied a request Dec. 10 to review the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that approves a private settlement of employees' claims for unpaid overtime based on the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the plaintiffs, the circuit was split on this decision as noted by an opinion from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that mandates approval of any FLSA settlement from a court or the United States Department of Labor. However, Robert Sheeder, partner at international law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, is not surprised that the Supreme Court declined to hear this case.

In an earlier case, Martin vs. Spring Break '83 Productions, the Fifth Circuit found that private compromise claims under the FLSA is permissible when there exists a bona fide dispute as a liability. Considering that this ruling backed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision, Sheeder expected the Supreme Court to move toward this direction.

"For years, the problem we've had here, in Texas particularly, is that when you have one of these wage and hour disputes, you probably couldn't settle it," Sheeder says. "You either had to ask the other side to file a law suit and then get the court to approve it, or you had to get the Department of Labor to intervene and approve it. There was a feeling that's the way the law had been, and what this means is the wage and hour disputes will be much more similar to regular disputes."

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