Flowers Foods, Inc. and Flowers Baking Co. of Bardstown, LLC are the defendants in a proposed collective action filed in Kentucky federal court. The plaintiff, who filed the case on behalf of all current and former similarly situated workers, claims the defendants unlawfully misclassified those working as distributors as independent contractors and thereby failed to pay proper time-and-a-half overtime wages.
The case says distributors are tasked with delivering fresh baked goods to the defendants’ customers—grocery stores, mass retailers, fast food chains—as well as stocking shelves, retrieving outdated products and assembling promotional displays. According to the complaint, the defendants have “regularly and routinely” forced distributors to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime in what the case describes as a scheme to deprive members of the proposed collective of proper wages.
In describing the level of control the defendants supposedly have over distributors’ day-to-day work lives, the lawsuit claims that while Flowers Foods represented to the workers that they would be able to run their businesses independently, the company has effectively denied the proposed collective the benefits of ownership and entrepreneurial skill by keeping from distributors:
The right to negotiate wholesale prices;
The right to negotiate shelf space in stores located in the workers’ territories;
The right to negotiate retail sale prices;
The right to “establish all sales and promotions”;
The right to withhold pay for certain expenses; and
The right to unilaterally end the employment relationship.
Even further, the case says distributors cannot change orders placed with the defendant and are required to repay Flowers Foods for products they did not order. Similarly, Flowers Foods supposedly retains the right to discipline distributors, as well as determine when time can be taken off work.
“Flowers Defendants’ mischaracterization of the named Plaintiff and members of the proposed collective class, the concealment or non-disclosure of the true nature of the relationship between them and Defendants, and the attendant deprivation of substantial rights and benefits of employment during the class periods have been a part of an on-going unlawful practice by Flowers Defendants,” the lawsuit states.