Sweet Lady Jane Bakery Entangled in Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging Wage Theft
A well-known bakery in Los Angeles, Sweet Lady Jane, has abruptly closed all six of its locations on New Year’s Day. The company claims that the closure is due to poor sales, which has resulted in the inability to compensate their dedicated employees.
However, for a number of individuals who used to work at the dessert chain, the statement seemed insincere. According to court documents reviewed by The Times, the companies behind Sweet Lady Jane have been involved in a class-action lawsuit for almost seven months. The lawsuit was filed by an employee who claims wage theft. According to employees, the company has been plagued by issues of mismanagement.
A former employee, Blanca Juarez, has filed a complaint against Sweet Lady Jane LLC and SLJ Wholesale LLC, claiming that she was not properly compensated for her work at the bakery. Juarez alleges that she was not paid for all the hours she worked, including overtime, and that she was not given proper meal and rest breaks. The complaint was filed on June 30 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
A lawsuit alleges that the defendants systematically mistreated their hourly and non-exempt employees by consistently violating wage regulations. Sweet Lady Jane’s owners have announced the closure of their business.
According to the lawsuit, Juarez has accused the bakery of neglecting to keep proper payroll records and failing to reimburse essential business expenses. In a recent lawsuit, it has been claimed that Sweet Lady Jane deliberately chose not to pay their dues, allegedly in an attempt to boost their own profits. No comments were provided by the lawyers representing Juarez and Sweet Lady Jane despite multiple requests.
The bakery chain has denied Juarez’s allegations in court filings, referring to the complaint as “unverified.” According to lawyers, Juarez and other potential lawsuit participants have received full payment for all their earned amounts.
In a recent court filing, lawyers have revealed that the companies are considering a government alternative to bankruptcy. This alternative could potentially provide an opportunity for creditors, including former employees, to seek repayment of their debts.
Documents obtained by The Times reveal that severance packages were offered to some former workers. According to the documents, employees who sign the deal are required to refrain from participating in any legal actions that aim to obtain more money or involve class, consolidated, or representative actions.
Sweet Lady Jane made a significant announcement on December 31st through an Instagram post, revealing the closure of all their stores. In a surprising turn of events, the position was suddenly eliminated, leaving employees in shock. However, their shock was only intensified when they received news the very next day that the company would be permanently closing its doors.
An email obtained by The Times stated, “However, we are very grateful for your loyal service and will pay you your regular wages through January 5.” The company emphasized that it did not make this decision lightly or quickly, according to a public statement.
The E-said Mail announced that despite the strong support and loyalty of their customers and employees, they have made the difficult decision to cease operations in California. The company cited insufficient sales as the reason for this decision, as they were unable to meet their leasing obligations and provide their employees with a living wage. “The organizers express their hope that the cherished memories of the happiness experienced throughout Los Angeles will endure for both the attendees and themselves.”
At the West Hollywood location of Sweet Lady Jane, an old sign was found hanging on the door. The sign stated that the bakery would be closed for renovations starting on Monday, September 18th. This news came just five days after the closure was announced. Customers were informed of store recommendations in Santa Monica, Calabasas, or Manhattan Beach. Unfortunately, the latter location ceased operations towards the end of 2023.
Prior to the company-wide shutdown, there were already apprehensions regarding the company’s financial situation. According to Phoebe Davidson, a former employee from summer 2021 to summer 2022, Sweet Lady Jane has reportedly made changes to their menu and raised prices. According to Davidson, customers would often give a tip of $100 when a 9-inch cake cost around $90. The company has increased the price to $100.
Davidson expressed concern that if certain changes were made, it could potentially result in a decrease in tips. “When employees requested raises, they were informed that there were insufficient funds available.” How can such a situation arise when we manage to sell cakes worth thousands of dollars on a daily basis?
According to two employees who preferred to remain anonymous, the company was reportedly going through a period of transition before its closure. This included plans for expansion into different areas of the city, as well as temporary closures of popular locations for renovation purposes. The employees expressed concerns about potential retaliation from the company and the challenges they might face in finding new employment.