A New York federal court has approved a $910,000 settlement in a class action contending that Pret A Manger failed to pay employees for the time it took them to put on uniforms or time spent waiting for the changing room. Trinidad v. Pret A Manger (USA) Ltd., No. 12-6094 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D.N.Y., order entered September 19, 2014). Under the settlement agreement, Pret will pay $910,000 to the class to be distributed on a sliding scale, with $5 to class members employed for less than a week, and about $4.50 per week to class members who worked there longer.
Class counsel sought 33 percent of the settlement fund for attorney’s fees, but the court found fault with some of counsel’s billing practices. It noted that approximately 70 percent of the billed hours were worked by a partner at the rate of $550 per hour, but “a close review of the tasks that [the attorney] performed reveals that much and perhaps most of this work could have been performed by junior associates who, in his firm, bill at $175 per hour,” including “drafting routine affidavits, preparing letters to the Court, performing administrative tasks such as scheduling, and writing non-substantive correspondence.” The court also noted that the $550 billing rate “is higher than the norm, which, for wage-and-hour cases in this District, appears to be between $300 and $400 per hour,” so it calculated the billing rate at $400 instead. In addition, “many of [the attorney’s] time entries are thinly worded and non-specific,” the court found. To account for these deficiencies, the court discounted the total amount of hours worked by that attorney by 25 percent. After these deductions, the total the court identified as fairer neared about 13 percent of the total settlement fund, but after considering case magnitude and complexity, requested fee and public policy implications, the court awarded class counsel 25 percent of the fund.