In an opinion last week, Judge Pauley refused to allow the parties in an FLSA case to redact portions of a Settlement Agreement, and further refused to approve the settlement itself.
Judge Pauley found that the presumption of public access to judicial documents was fundamentally at odds with the parties’ attempt to settle under a “shroud of secrecy”:
When the amounts recovered by the plaintiffs, and the amount paid in attorney’s fees, are redacted, the public is in no position to evaluate the Court’s conclusion as to fairness nor can the public assess whether the rights sought to be protected by . . . FLSA are furthered by the settlement.
As for the merits of the settlement, Judge Pauley found that “the Settlement Agreement essentially compiles a ‘greatest hits’ of various provisions that have been struck down or questioned by various courts in this Circuit,” including
- a “general release of all past, current, or future claims, whether known or unknown,”
- a “broad confidentiality provision that covers the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement,” and
- a “non-disparagement ‘gag order’ provision preventing Plaintiff from discussing the case or settlement unless compelled by law.”