Flowers Foods Defense – Interstate Commerce
Flowers Foods argued that they should be excluded from overtime pay and breaks under regulations for interstate drivers --regardless whether they can prove misclassification-- as two orders in 2001 and 2002 from the California Industrial Welfare Commission found that interstate drivers exempted from overtime under federal law are also overtime-exempt under California's law.
As well, the second-largest commercial bakery in the US (whose brands include Wonder Bread, Tastykake, Sunbeam, and Nature’s Own) argued that the workers were franchisees and that they weren't subject to the ABC test for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. (The ABC test was introduced in 2018 by the California Supreme Court's decision in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Under the test, a worker is considered an employee unless a company can demonstrate the worker is free from its control, performs work outside its line of business and operates as an independent firm.)
Thirdly, Flowers Food argued that meal and rest break claims should also be dismissed based on a decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration because the drivers are engaged in interstate commerce. The FMCSA in December 2018 found that California's meal and rest break rules are preempted when applied to interstate drivers who operate vehicles covered by the administration's hours-of-service regulations. As for the FMCSA findings, drivers said Flowers Foods is not a registered motor carrier with the FMCSA and "no federal law aims to alleviate baking companies subject to manufacturing wage orders from state employment tests and meal [or] rest obligations" and therefore the ABC test applied to them.
Judge Robinson Weighs In
Regarding the ABC test argument, Judge Robinson said that determining whether the drivers engaged in interstate commerce "is a highly factual inquiry…the parties purportedly could agree to only a handful of undisputed material facts”, such as determining to whom the producing bakery intends to deliver its products, reported Law360. And because the bakery couldn’t establish that the drivers' deliveries "were part of a practical continuity of movement across state lines" Judge Robinson said that summary judgment is not appropriate.
Judge Robinson also rejected Flowers Foods' argument that the court should ax "unmanageable" claims that the drivers brought under the Private Attorneys General Act, a California law that allows workers to file labor violations on behalf of other workers and the state. Further, because Flower Foods could not identify how many distributors would be included under the PAGA claims, Judge Robinson said that the court wouldn’t be able to figure out whether they actually are unmanageable.
More Flowers Food Misclassification Settlements
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And there’s more. JDSupra reported that the baking company, in two months prior to the Vermont settlement, also settled two other IC misclassification cases totaling $21.6 million. And Flowers Food settled similar lawsuits in the past for another $18 million covering distributors in Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri, and before that for $9 million in another case involving North Carolina distributors.