Chicago area candymaker Ferrara has been hit with a potential class action lawsuit on behalf of perhaps hundreds of current and former workers at its suburban candy plants, accusing the company of failing to pay its workers for the time they spent getting ready for their shifts each day at the plant, effectively meaning the company has failed to pay overtime as required by federal and state wage laws.
On Nov. 15, a group of four named plaintiffs, identified as Carmen Herrera, Gonzalo Ruiz, Jesus Licea Ibanez and Concepcion Gomez, filed suit in Chicago federal court against the Ferrara Candy Company, alleging the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
The plaintiffs all worked at the candymaker’s plants in Forest Park and Bolingbrook. One plaintiff had worked at the Forest Park plant from 1978 to Sept. 2, 2016, the complaint said. Only one of the named plaintiffs was still employed by Ferrara, according to the lawsuit.
Ferrara is based in Oakbrook Terrace.
Ferrara has been in business in the Chicago area since 1908, and now makes 24 kinds of candy products under 16 brands, including Brachs, Now & Later, RedHots, Lemonhead, JujyFruits, Atomic FireBall, JawBusters and Trolli, among others, according to its website.
The lawsuit centered on an accusation Ferrara has declined to pay its workers at its suburban candymaking plants for “work performed at the beginning of each day.”
At the start of the work day, the complaint said Ferrara workers are required “to perform integral and indispensable principal activites” including “retrieving and donning daily issued uniforms, retrieving and donning protective gear, retrieving equipment, reviewing reports from prior shifts, attending mandatory meetings, moving materials, and inspecting machinery.”
“Failure to do so violated Ferrara’s policies and subjected the employee to discipline or wage deductions,” the complaint said.
Performing such duties without pay meant the employees worked more than 40 hours, but weren’t paid overtime.
The complaint did not specify how many other potential other Ferrara employees could be included in the class. But the lawsuit estimated the number of potential other class members could number in the “hundreds.”
The lawsuit asked the court to order Ferrara to pay unpaid overtime wages and to pay additional liquidated and statutory damages, plus attorney fees.
The Ferrara employee plaintiffs are represented in the action by attorney Valentin T. Narvaez, of the Consumer Law Group, of Chicago.