Flowers Foods Inc., a Thomasville, Ga.-based firm that bakes for brands such Wonder Bread, Tastykake and Mrs. Freshley’s, is defending itself against 26 lawsuits filed by its independent distributors claiming they were misclassified as independent contractors, according to a filing by Flowers with the US Securities and Exchange Administration. Of the lawsuits, 23 are class actions.
It agreed to a $9 million settlement in 12 of the cases, and attorneys filed this month to finalize the settlement, according to the filing. The 12 class-action lawsuits included 900 independent distributors. Of the settlement amount, $5.4 million will go to workers and $3.8 million will go to attorneys’ fees.
The independent distributors deliver baked goods to retailers. The central lawsuit in the 12-suit settlement was Long v. Flowers Foods.
In an SEC filing, the company warned the ongoing litigation “could increase costs, negatively impact our business prospects and the business prospects of our distributors and subject us to incremental liability for their actions.”
The company also reported that courts have ruled on class certifications in several cases involving Flowers Foods. Here’s a list of cases where a judge has certified the case as a class action and there has been a settlement:
- On Sept. 12, 2018, a court approved an agreement to settle for $740,000, including attorneys’ fees on behalf of 43 distributors in the lawsuits Zapata et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc. and Rodriguez et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc.
- On Sept. 10, 2018, a court approved a settlement of $1.5 million including $800,000 in settlement and $600,000 in attorneys’ fees plus $100,000 for a service award and as an incentive for class members who are active distributors not to opt out of certain portions of the new distributor agreement. The case included 106 class members; it was McCurley v. Flowers Foods Inc.
- On Sept. 5, 2018, a court approved a settlement of approximately $1.3 million comprising $400,000 in settlement funds and $900,000 in attorneys’ fees and $100,000 for service awards and incentives for class members who are active distributors not to opt out of certain portions of a new distributor agreement. The lawsuit had 27 class members and was Schucker et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc.
- In March 2018, a court approved a settlement of $4.3 million comprised of $1.2 million in settlement and $2.9 million in attorneys’ fees and $200,000 as an incentive for class members who are active distributors not to opt out of certain portions of the new distributor agreement. The lawsuit, Coyle v. Flowers Foods Inc., included 190 class members
- In June 2017, a court approved a settlement of $5.2 million plus $3.8 million in attorneys’ fees in Rehberg et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc., which included 270 class members.
- In April 2017, a court approved a settlement for $250,000 including attorneys’ fees for 16 distributors. The case was Stewart et al. v. Flowers Foods Inc.
- In March 2017, a court approved a $1.25 million settlement in Bokanoski et al. v. Lepage Bakeries Park Street LLC. This case included 49 territories. (Lepage was acquired by Flowers Foods in 2012.)