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Pepperidge Farm Distributors “Independent Contractors” Massachusetts Class Action

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The complaint for this class action alleges that Pepperidge Farm, Inc. misclassified the plaintiffs in this action as independent contractors when they were actually employees. Although the rules aren’t hard and fast, the complaint details the ways in which the company had substantial control over the scheduling, policies, and work. 

The class for this action is all consignees working under Consignment Agreements with Pepperidge Farm covering territory in Massachusetts at any time between October 2, 2010 to the present. Two subclasses have also been defined, consisting of former and current distributors.

Both plaintiffs, Edward Sayward, Sr. and John Provost, were distributors for the company in Massachusetts. They delivered products to stores, put them in displays, promoted them, and returned unsold items to the companies. 

The complaint argues that the services the men performed “constitute a regular and continuing part” of the company’s business and that the men had to depend on the company for the continuation of their work. 

Both men were required to buy trucks that met Pepperidge Farm’s specifications. They were given Consignment Agreements to sign, which they were expected to accept without negotiation. They are also required to agree to company policies about such things as handheld computers and other equipment, method of delivery of certain product, and returns of stale or damaged product.

The company maintained “control and direction” over their work in other ways, the complaint says: They were required to deliver to locations designated by the company and were expected to market the products to stores within assigned territories. The Consignment Agreements also required them to “keep fully informed of [Pepperidge Farm’s] recommended policies and methods for increasing sales and improving distribution service.”

Under the Agreements, they were also forbidden to distribute any products that were competitive with the company’s products or to distribute other products if it would interfere with their distribution of Pepperidge Farm’s products. The complaint says they also had to let the company set sales or distribution goals, follow the company’s specifications for equipment and appearance, maintain certain kinds of insurance to protect both themselves and the company, and obtain permission to sell or split routes.

The company required them to show up to in the morning, on the schedule it set, and decided what products they would deliver. It determined how the goods were displayed and implemented disciplinary practices if they did not meet standards or mandates.

These and other requirements, the complaint says, demonstrate that the company maintained substantial control over when and how the job is performed and indicate that the plaintiffs were employees rather than independent contractors. 

The complaint claims that Pepperidge Farm should pay more of the distributors’ expenses, such as truck purchase and insurance, and that it should give them the employer’s share of payroll taxes, sick and holiday pay, meal and rest breaks, health insurance, retirement plans, and other employee benefits. It brings suit under Massachusetts laws.

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