GT’s Kombucha Hit With Putative Class Action Suit

gtsA former employee of Millenium Products Inc., which owns category-leader GT’s Kombucha, has filed a putative class action lawsuit against the company, alleging various forms of unjust treatment to employees, according to Law360.

When asked to comment, Millennium Products Inc. said that it is unable to do so at this time because of ongoing litigation.

The former employee, Alma Mateos, filed the suit in September 2013 in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. The suit alleges the following:

-The company locked workers in a warehouse where they were “virtually placed under guard.”

-Hundreds of employees responsible for brewing and bottling the company’s kombucha products were subjected to “abhorrent” conditions at the company’s bottling plant in Vernon, Calif.

-When state food and health inspectors would arrive, the plaintiff and other employees were herded into a large room so the inspectors couldn’t see the whole number of employees working in the plant.

-Employees were denied overtime pay despite regularly working 14- to 20-hour work days.

-Employees were denied rest breaks and were granted meal periods that lasted for a few minutes. California labor law mandates that employers must provide a 10-minute break for every four hours of work. Employees in the state are also entitled to a 30-minute meal break after five hours of work and a second meal after 10 hours of work.

-The company routinely failed to pay the plaintiff in a timely manner and wage statements were often inaccurate, improperly representing the number of hours worked and the correct pay rate.

-The company paid employees in cash if it believed that they wouldn’t complain.

-The company fired any employee who complained and refused to pay owed compensation after termination.

Mateos is suing the company on behalf of those who were employed by the company within four years of the complaint’s filing. She seeks overtime pay and statutory penalties related to missed meal and rest periods, inaccurate wage statements and unpaid wages.

GT’s, which owns a majority market share of the kombucha category, has previously been involved in class action litigation for health claims and labeling issues. However, this suit represents the first employee complaint through litigation.

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that the suit was filed on Thursday. It was filed in September 2013.