Business & Economy

Court orders back pay for Koffee Kup and Vermont Bread workers after a 5-month wait

The Koffee Kup Bakery in Burlington, seen last April when the company abruptly laid off most of its employees and shuttered the plant. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Weeks after a state court issued the same order, a U.S. bankruptcy judge has reaffirmed that some 250 laid-off workers of Koffee Kup Bakery and subsidiary Vermont Bread Company must receive more than $800,000 in back pay nearly five months after their businesses closed without notice last spring.

Chittenden Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar Jr. had approved reimbursement in July to 150 employees in Burlington and 100 colleagues in Brattleboro who found their manufacturing and distribution plants abruptly shuttered along with a sister Connecticut company in April.

Workers have complained the company paid out an estimated $830,000 in accrued vacation and sick time into their bank accounts after closing, only to have it electronically retracted because of a disagreement about who’s responsible for covering such obligations.

In response, the judge called for payment of the PTO claim “as soon as can be done” with money from the surprise last-minute sale of the properties to Flowers Foods, the $4 billion maker of such national brands as Wonder Bread.

But several other creditors recently filed a subsequent motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking to freeze all actions until they could argue their own cases. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, only to be cancelled when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Colleen Brown confirmed the Chittenden Superior Court order and called for payment of the PTO claim “immediately.”

The affirmation was welcome news to Koffee Kup lawyers, who didn’t want interest to continue to accrue on what’s owed, and to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, which has filed a series of court papers supporting immediate reimbursement. 

But it was another sign of closure for customers with hopes the bakeries would rehire workers and return local baked goods to store shelves, as Flowers Foods has said it has “no immediate plans to reopen” the Burlington or Brattleboro plants.

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Kevin O'Connor

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