Former Employee Alleges Misclassification by Bimbo Bakeries

A former employee of Bimbo Bakeries alleged in a proposed class action filed Monday that Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc., and Bimbo Food Bakeries Distribution, LLC unlawfully misclassified a class of Maine distributors as independent contractors instead of employees. The suit is the third employment suit faced by the bakery in recent weeks.

The employee alleged violations of Maine state law as well as an individual claim for violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Maine Federal District Judge Lance E. Walker has been assigned to the case.

Chad Helms worked for Bimbo Bakeries from approximately June 2013 to May 2020, delivering brand name bread products and baked goods around Maine.  Bimbo Bakeries refers people in Helms’ position as “[d]istributors” or “IBPs.”  The duties of IBPs are “driving vehicles to stores within a territory designated by Bimbo, delivering Bimbo’s products to these stores, and arranging the products on the shelves according to Bimbo’s display standards.”  Helms stated he worked approximately 45-50 hours per week, and up to 65 hours per week.

Bimbo treated “IBPs as independent contractors, claiming that they are not entitled to the protections of state and federal employment laws.”  In arguing that they should be classified as employees, Helms said the IBPs’ work is part of Bimbo’s regular business and “and their work is integral to Defendants’ baked goods distribution business, and Defendants also directly employ delivery drivers who perform the same work for Defendants but who are treated as W2 employees.”  Additionally, the plaintiff stated he and other IPBs worked exclusively for Bimbo—they are restricted from performing similar duties for other companies—and Bimbo exercises “virtually unlimited control over Plaintiff’s and IBP’s work.” 

Examples of Bimbo’s virtually unlimited control included “dictating all prices, requiring Plaintiff and IBPs to deliver to stores that are not profitable, employing supervisors who travel to stores in Plaintiff’ territories to review their work, and threatening to terminate Plaintiff and IBPs whose work does not satisfy Defendants’ standards.”  Helm was terminated in May, due to alleged unsatisfactory work.

The plaintiff argued that, under Maine overtime law, the class are employees and are therefore entitled to overtime that Bimbo did not pay.  The second count alleged that the deductions required by Bimbo—for route loan repayments, use of Bimbo’s electronic equipment, insurance coverage that benefits Bimbo, supplies, truck lease payments, among others—were unlawful.

Helms is represented by Kaplan & Grant, and Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C.  Bimbo has been sued two other times in New England this June for similar claims in the District of Massachusetts and Vermont.  Bimbo’s counsel in the Massachusetts suit is Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.