Entries in Chocolate (3)


Workers Sue Russell Stover Sue For Overtime Pay

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Employees for Russell Stover Candies Inc. filed a federal wage-and-hour lawsuit against the company, saying they were intentionally mislabeled as sales representatives and none of them "has ever been paid overtime."

Russell Stover Candies Inc., based in Missouri, employs about 5,000 people, including more than 170 sales representatives, the complaint said. The "overwhelming majority" of its candy is delivered to retailers like Walmart and grocery stores.

Nine workers said Russell Stover "misnamed them as 'sales representatives,'" making them exempt from overtime, when none of them worked primarily in sales, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Most of the company's sales are performed or originate from employees other than the plaintiffs, the court filing said.

The suit was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta for the Northern District of Georgia.

One plaintiff, a former sales representative named Cheryl Carter, a resident of Fulton County, Ga., worked for the company from May 2005 to December 2012. During that time, her duties "primarily" involved manual labor, the suit said, and she "regularly" worked more than 40 hours each week but was never paid overtime.

The sales representatives' duties the majority of time included receiving shipments, inspecting, unpacking, stocking, cleaning, processing credits and repairing display fixtures, according to the complaint.

Robbie Vorhaus, a spokesman for Russell Stover Candies, said the company received the complaint on Wednesday and was still reviewing it.

John Hunt, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on their behalf.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that drug companies do not have to pay sales representatives for working overtime, despite some arguments from employees that they were not actually selling medicine but promoting them to doctors.

Steven Kaminshine, dean of Georgia State University College of Law and an expert in labor and employment law, said cases claiming violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act are "very fact-dependent."

"A common area of dispute under the Fair Labor Standards Act turns on employee status -- whether it be the particular status at issue in this case, or the question of whether the individual is appropriately classified as an employee or an independent contractor, salaried employee or hourly employee," he said. "Many of the different classifications under the FSLA are determinative of receiving the protections of the statute."

The four former employees who are plaintiffs are residents of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. The five current employees who filed the suit are residents of Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.

They claim the company "intentionally and purposefully misclassified" them as "exempt" from the Fair Labor law requirements while not paying them 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for hours over the 40-hour workweek.

The suit claims that despite working more than 40 hours a week, the company created "a fictitious 'calculation'" on plaintiffs' paychecks that showed they worked 40 hours a week.

A sales representative's typical schedule included starting the day with a hand-held wireless computer to contact the company's "host computer" to receive the day's program updates. This process repeated again at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and at the end of the day, according to the suit.

The employee drives a company vehicle to the first store to be serviced, then clocks in before getting out of the car and removes supplies from the car to service that store. The sales representative then goes into the store, signs in at the customer service desk, later dusting, cleaning or repairing candy shelves and displays. Other duties include meeting with a store employee to determine if there is space available for new candy and signing out of the store.

The plaintiffs say the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for "many years and continues today."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Toy-Filled Chocolate Eggs Legal in US

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LEBANON, N.J.) -- Kinder Surprise eggs — the chocolate delicacy filled with a (surprise!) toy — have had a big impact on people’s lives. Consider the Winnipeg woman who nearly paid a $300 fine when she tried to cross the Canadian-U.S. border with one (the candy is illegal in the U.S., but more on that later).  Or the highly creative man who used one to propose to his girlfriend.

Or the New Jersey businessman who loved them so much he wanted to make sure future generations of American children could enjoy them as much as he does.

That would be Kevin Gass, the co-founder of Candy Treasure LLC, a Lebanon, N.J., candy company. About a week ago, Gass unrolled Choco Treasure, a Kinder-inspired chocolate egg with a toy inside. This is a big deal, because this type of  product hasn’t been legal in this country since 1938, when the Food and Drug Administration passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits any “non-nutritive component” (for example, a toy) from being embedded in a confectionary product, as the Foodbeast reported.

Gass figured out a way to legalize his new product.

“This is the biggest kids’ candy in the world, and we think it tastes great. It’s fun, and we spent quite a bit of time to make it safer and also as much fun as the original,” Gass told ABC News, adding that he worked with the FDA and a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission certified lab to make sure the product was safe for children of all ages. To wit: Submerged inside each egg is a capsule that separates the two halves of the chocolate. The capsule also has ridges around the side, so even a young child can tell there’s something there.

Other than safety, one of Gass’s biggest challenges was finding a toy that would appeal to adults and kids alike, even though children are the target audience.

“Young kids love stickers. Adults don’t want stickers,” said Gass. So he and his team have come up with gizmos that offer something for everyone: A mini deck of cards–all 52 of them!  A tiny 3-D puzzle. A teensy little rubber squirty toy.

So far, the Choco Treasure, which costs between $1 and $1.49, can be found on the company website, at Target and SuperValu stores, and at Economy Candy, in Lower Manhattan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Could the Appetite For Chocolate Exceed the World’s Supply?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Imagine Halloween and Valentine’s Day without chocolate.  Imagine a world with chocolate prices so high that not everyone could afford to indulge.  Not a bright future.

Though the world’s demand for chocolate almost exceeds the ability of worn-out plants to produce it, experts say it’s not time to panic yet.  But something needs to be done.

“An improvement needs to be made to extend this supply chain,” Robert Peck, senior director of operations for the World Cocoa Foundation, told ABC. “We have to start thinking, where is that increase in supply going to happen and how are we going to get it?”

The demand for chocolate increases by about 2.5 to 3 percent each year, which means about four million more tons of cocoa are needed every year.

Experts predict that by 2020, the demand for chocolate will increase by 25 percent. That’s about five million metric tons of chocolate.

“Cocoa has been almost completely static,” said Andrew Pederson, global chocolate manager for Mars, Inc., the makers of M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Snickers and other confections.  “The crops don’t perform well. They’re aging pretty badly. Farmers don’t have a lot of tools and training.”

Existing cocoa plants, mostly in tropical countries, are old and worn out, and it is difficult to find space to plant more. Expansion of cropland could mean deforestation.

“Cocoa is a crop that is fragile. Cocoa is a crop that is very picky where it likes to grow,” Peck said. “It needs tropical, humid conditions with rich soil. There’s not a lot of land availability with those conditions around the world.”

Experts say newer and stronger cocoa plants need to be developed to keep up with demand, which can take years.

“It takes time to influence the product of the tree,” Peck said. “Results don’t happen overnight.”

Peck called the chocolate industry a “very well-developed sector” and said the issue of appetite overrunning ability is not a surprise. He said the industry has been investing in and implementing programs and research for years to combat the problem.

“From my very personal perspective, overnight there probably won’t be a major variance in chocolate prices for consumers,” Peck said.

So, for now, chocolate lovers need not fret.

“We want to make sure people can continue loving it without any cares or worries, except for having too much,” Pederson said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio