Judge Approves $525,000 Settlement of Hot Sauce Company Employment Spat

Court Settlement

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge has approved a $525,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by former employee of an Irwindale company that produces the well-known Sriracha hot sauce in which the plaintiff alleged she and about 120 other current and former workers were not paid for all hours worked.

Plaintiff Anna Valdez further alleged in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods Inc. -- brought in November 2020 under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 -- that she was required to work in sweltering conditions without air conditioning.

Judge Christopher K. Lui approved the settlement on Thursday. It includes $183,750 in attorneys' fees and another $11,685 in litigation cost compensation to lawyers representing Valdez.

Valdez was given a $7,500 "enhancement award" for her services in bring the action on behalf of herself and her fellow workers.

"I am aware that (Huy Fong Foods) denies the allegations in this lawsuit and that there has been no determination that (the firm) is actually liable for any of these alleged violations," Valdez said in a sworn declaration in support of the accord. "I have been advised of the terms of the proposed settlement of this case and in light of the risks and uncertainties in proceeding with the case, I believe the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable and in the best interests of the aggrieved employees."

The suit sought civil penalties under PAGA and the state Labor Code. In their court papers, attorneys for the company said Valdez "primarily worked as a janitor" and should not be allowed to represent other employees with different hours and work conditions.

But in her declaration, Valdez stated she and her co-workers performed manual labor and were paid at or near minimum wage.

"In many work areas, the only climate control solutions were industrial fans that recirculated the hot air," Valdez added. "Despite these working conditions, we were frequently denied timely meal and rest breaks and completely denied second meal periods and third rest breaks when we worked over 10 hours."

Valdez left the company in May 2020, the suit stated.

Huy Fong's Sriracha sauce is a popular chili sauce often called "rooster sauce" due to the rooster on its bottle label.

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