April 14, 2015

Employment News Independent Contractor Misclassification

Flowers Class Action Featured in Maine Business Journal, Lewiston Sun Journal

Following a March 24th ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to certify a class of employees of Flowers Foods, Inc., allowing for the lawsuit to proceed as a class action litigation, the company announced their intent to appeal the decision in an article with Mainebiz, Maine’s business news source.

While the ‘class action’ ruling in Rehberg et al. v. Flowers Foods, Inc., applies only to distributors affiliated with the Jamestown Bakery in North Carolina – Flowers operates 34 bakeries and distribution centers throughout the United States, including Lewiston, Maine subsidiaries Lepage Bakeries. The court ruling in North Carolina is significant as it will pave the way for hundreds of distributors of Flowers Foods products nationwide to file similar claims under state and federal laws on a class-wide basis, and could entitle them to compensation from the bakery. Flowers Foods and their subsidiaries throughout the United States may also be required to change their distribution model to comply with the law. Filing these claims on a class-wide basis is beneficial for the individual distributors affected as it prevents them from having to bear all the costs and risks associated with individual litigation.

Wanta Thome PLC class action employment attorney Shawn Wanta sees the ruling as a significant victory for distributors “who have been denied the benefits and privileges of employment, despite being treated as employees for years,” with potential ramifications nationwide due to the size and scope of Flowers Foods business across the country. The class ruling in North Carolina is “instructive as to what other courts may do if faced with the same legal questions.”

Flowers Foods’ attorneys filed a Petition for Permission to Appeal with the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals this week, asking the court for permission to appeal the class certification decision.

Read more about Flowers Foods challenge of the ‘class action’ ruling here.

This announcement comes just one day after Wanta Thome PLC received attention from Maine’s business media in regards to the class certification victory. The Flowers ruling was featured in both Mainebiz and the Lewiston Sun Journal.