Rehberg et al. v. Flowers Foods, Inc. et al. is a class action and collective action lawsuit brought on behalf of a class of individuals who operate or operated as fresh bakery product distributors for Defendants Flowers Foods, Inc. and Flowers Baking Co. of Jamestown, LLC who work for Flowers’ Jamestown bakery. Defendants employ “distributors” in 31 states throughout the southern and eastern United States to deliver bakery and snack food to their customers, which include grocery stores, mass retailers, and fast food chains. Distributors also stock products on store shelves and assemble promotional displays designed and provided by Flowers. This Flowers class action lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial beginning October 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The bakery industry has changed a lot in the past 30 years, but Defendants’ distribution model has not kept up with the times. Flowers Foods and FBC of Jamestown predicated their model upon the idea that Distributors would call on local grocery stores and independently negotiate with local owners and managers to determine the price, product selection, and promotion of bread. Today’s reality is that the commercial bakery business is dominated by international conglomerates in which decisions that used to be made on a local level are now made between high-ranking corporate directors utilizing sophisticated computer systems to forecast consumer demands. The result is that Distributors are no longer able to operate independently from the bakery. There is no place in the current marketplace for independent bread salesmen; Distributors do little more than deliver bread and cake to Defendants’ customers and track their progress using Defendants’ centralized mobile computer system. Through this lawsuit, a group of Flowers Baking Company of Jamestown distributors ask the Court to determine, once and for all, whether Distributors are employees of Defendants.
Due to the misclassification of their position, Plaintiffs allege violations of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq.; the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 95-25.1, et seq; N.C. Admin. Code § 12.0305; and North Carolina common law. This action challenges both the classification of distributors as independent contractors and Defendants’ denial to Plaintiffs and the Class of the rights, obligations, privileges, and benefits owed to them as employees (including overtime, pension and other benefits.)