In October 2022, bakery distributor drivers working for Bimbo Bakeries USA Inc. and Bimbo Foods Bakeries Distribution LLC filed a lawsuit alleging they were misclassified as independent contractors, rather than employees. They claimed that, as employees, the companies owe them overtime back wages.
Bimbo Bakeries then countersued the drivers, seeking repayment of monies the workers earned while working for the companies.
Now, the U.S. Department of Labor is seeking to dismiss the countersuit on the grounds that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not allow employers to assert these types of claims against their workers seeking back wages, according to a press release from the department.
One of the nation’s largest baking companies, Bimbo Bakeries USA operates more than 50 manufacturing locations in the U.S. with over 11,000 distribution routes delivering baked goods under more than a dozen brand names.
According to the department, the goal of the countersuit is to offset any back wages or liquidated damages the court may ultimately award to the workers. The department asserts that these types of counterclaims will discourage workers from asserting their FLSA rights.
“Companies use counterclaims like this one to circumvent the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These companies want to have it both ways — they want the benefits of not paying overtime wages and, if a court says they must pay under the FLSA, they want their employees to reimburse them for their own violations of the law. That is simply not allowed,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda in the release.
“What’s at stake here is workers’ ability to exercise their rights under the FLSA without the fear of being impermissibly countersued by their employers,” Nanda added.