Distributors of bakery products for Flowers Foods, Inc., and its local Arizona subsidiary, Holsum Bakery Inc., scored an important victory this week when an Arizona federal court granted conditional class certification to Arizona distributors who claim the company wrongly classified them as independent contractors and denied them the benefits and privileges of employees. The lawsuit is one of over 15 related cases across the country against Flowers Foods and is the latest in a string of victories for distributors.
Distributors of bakery products for Flowers Foods, Inc., and its local Arizona subsidiary, Holsum Bakery Inc., scored an important victory this week in their wage and hour case against the company. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona granted conditional class certification to Arizona distributors who are claiming the company wrongly classified them as independent contractors and denied them the benefits and privileges of employees. The order means that any Holsum Bakery distributor who has worked for the company in Arizona in the past three years will have an opportunity to join the lawsuit. The lawsuit, Terry Coyle v. Flowers Foods Incorporated, et al., is one of over 15 related cases across the country against Flowers Foods and is the latest in a string of victories for distributors.
Like distributors in other states, Arizona distributors have brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and related state wage and hour statutes arguing Flowers Foods, Inc. and Holsum Bakery Inc. misclassified them as independent contractors, yet treated them as employees. Distributors deliver baked goods to the Flowers Foods’ customers, stock the products on store shelves, assemble promotional displays created and provided by the company and perform most of their duties at the company’s direction. Flowers Foods dictates the place and time of delivery, pricing, delivery agreements, shelf space, advertising and negotiates directly with its customers. Distributors argue that because the company controls most aspects of their job, they are employees, not independent contractors, and have been denied wages for all time worked, overtime, and other benefits entitled to them under the FLSA and Arizona laws.
As a result of certification, the court will soon issue a notice to potential class members in Arizona informing them of the lawsuit and the opportunity to opt in and join it. The potential class includes: “All persons who are or have performed work as Distributors for Defendants under a ‘Distributor Agreement’ with Holsum Bakery or a similar written contract that they entered into during the period commencing three years prior to the commencement of this action through the close of the Court–determined opt-in period and who file a consent to join this action….”
The court is expected to issue this notice in the coming weeks, and distributors will have 60 days from the date of the mailing to respond. Contact Wanta Thome PLC to speak with an attorney about this lawsuit or about similar lawsuits against Flowers Foods and their subsidiaries in other states. Click here or call us at 612-252-3570.