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Flowers Foods and its Drivers Settle for a Lotta Dough

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Flowers Foods has the green light to settle a class action with its current and former distributors in Maine for more than $23 million.

Portland, MEFlowers Foods has been given the green light by a U.S. District judge to settle a unpaid wages class action lawsuit with its current and former distributors in Maine to the tune of $23 million. No wonder the cost of bread has risen. It can’t be blamed solely on supply shortages.

The settlements stems from a lawsuit filed in 2015 that accused the Wonder Bread maker of misclassifying distributor drivers as independent contractors, which lead to unpaid overtime and unlawful deductions from paychecks.

The drivers for Flowers Foods Inc. first filed a class action lawsuit back in 2015 by Timothy Noll, who claimed that Flower Foods, along with its subsidiary Lepage Bakeries Park Street LLC, and delivery company CK Sales Co. LLC violated federal and state laws by misclassifying distributor drivers as independent contractors, denying them minimum wage and overtime. U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker granted a joint motion for final approval of the settlement, whereby the companies will pay a total of $9 million to members of a certified class of workers who worked as distributors for Flowers Foods, Lepage or CK Sales from December 2021 until the Noll case's resolution.

Tally $23 million

Many plaintiffs are involved in the two other cases as well as Flowers Foods: Law360 reported that Lepage has also agreed to repurchase the distribution rights of distributors and hire distributors as employees, which Judge Walker said will require an additional $6.6 million. Those workers who become employees will have future perks, such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Add to that, class counsel fees and costs of $7.5 million; Noll’s $10,000 service award, and class members' mean recovery of about $75,000.

The cases are Noll v. Flowers Foods Inc. et al., case number 1:15-cv-00493, Aucoin et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-00411, and Bowen et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-00410, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.

Other Wage and Misclassification  Lawsuits

Flowers, which is the second-largest commercial bakery in the US (whose brands include Wonder Bread, Tastykake, Sunbeam, and Nature’s Own) doesn’t appear to have learned from past wage related claims. Back in 2018 it settled a class action lawsuit for $1.2 million with employees who accused the company of owing them outstanding unpaid wages for “donning and doffing” – workers were required to put on and take off work clothing and gear while they were off the clock.

Flowers settled in June 2020 an IC misclassification class and collective action under the FLSA misclassification case in Vermont for $7.6 million. (IC Diagnostics is a process that examines whether a group of workers not being treated as employees would pass the applicable tests for independent contractor (IC) status under governing state and federal laws, and then offers a number of practical, alternative solutions to enhance compliance with those laws.) 

In December 2021 a California judge ruled that Flowers Foods Inc. misclassified its distributor drivers as independent contractors and drivers can go ahead with overtime claims. Further, Flowers 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.

Wait, 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.


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