Irwindale maker of popular Sriracha hot sauce settles labor lawsuit
A former employee of an Irwindale company that produces the well-known Sriracha hot sauce has settled the lawsuit she filed against the firm on behalf of herself and other current and former workers in which she alleged they were not paid for all hours worked, the plaintiff’s attorney told a judge Friday.
Anna Valdez further alleged in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods Inc. — brought under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 — that she was required to work in sweltering conditions without air conditioning.
The suit sought civil penalties under PAGA and the state Labor Code. The settlement was announced by Valdez’s attorney during a status conference Friday before Judge Christopher K. Lui. No terms were divulged.
A stay the judge had put on the case on Jan. 20 so the parties could mediate was extended in September and was scheduled to expire Friday.
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.
Huy Fong’s Sriracha sauce is a popular chili sauce often called “rooster sauce” due to the rooster on its bottle label.
According to the complaint filed in November 2020, Valdez and other workers often worked off the clock, including when they came on and off their shifts and breaks at the same time, resulting in numerous people waiting to clock in and out.
“This time spent waiting in these … lines was required by (Huy Fong) … before employees could begin and/or resume working on the clock,” according to the suit, which also alleged the workers were regularly required to don and take off their protective apparel before clocking in from lunch and had to wait in line to clock back in after meals.
In order to be clocked back in on time, they had to join the line early, causing them to spend time “under the employer’s control doing a required task” while unpaid and off the clock, the suit alleged.
Meal breaks were also late, short and sometimes missed, according to the complaint.
Huy Fong’s warehouse had air conditioning in limited locations, but not in the section where Valdez was forced to work “in unbearable heat and found herself sweating while working,” the suit alleged.
The only cooling provided to employees in many parts of the warehouse were fans that recirculated the heat, according to the suit.
Valdez left the company in May 2020, the suit stated.