LEWISTON — The parent company of Lepage Bakeries is facing a potential class-action lawsuit by the distributors of its products in North Carolina.

Mainebiz is reporting that workers in that state who are hoping to sue Flower Foods Inc. were recently granted legal standing by a federal court to be considered a “class,” allowing them to move forward with their suit.

Flower Foods is the nation’s second largest bakery business and owns Lepage Bakeries. It runs 34 bakeries and distribution centers in 36 states, including the brands Wonder and Sunbeam.

An attorney representing the workers told Mainebiz that Flowers Foods considers distributors of its products as independent contractors, not employees, allowing it to avoid paying wages, pensions and other benefits.

Shawn J. Wanta, an attorney and partner with Minneapolis-based Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP, which represents employees and consumers in class actions and complex litigation nationwide, said that by doing so, the workers are claiming Flowers Foods is violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and North Carolina’s wage and hour laws.

Wanta told Mainebiz the ruling is “significant” because the company uses the same distribution model at all its bakeries.

Flowers Foods could not be reached for immediate comment by Mainebiz, but court filings by the company acknowledge its use of contractors for distribution and defends as legal its classification of the workers as independent contractors.

For more of the story, go to Mainebiz.com.

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