In court, CEO GT Dave “lacked any credibility,” “did not provide truthful testimony,” “lied through his teeth”

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LOS ANGELES, CA—A Los Angeles Superior Court ruling held that Millennium Products, Inc., now known and operating as GT’s Living Foods, LLC, the makers of Synergy Kombucha and other wellness brands, responsible for mistreatment of its workers and owes eleven of his former employees a sum approaching half a million dollars. The conclusion of the first phase of a three-party trial, has been the first ruling filed in a series of representative civil cases that seek justice for more than a decade of abuses, wage theft and retaliation suffered by employees in GT Living Food’s Vernon kombucha factories.

“Consumers who admire GT Living Foods’ brand of ‘healthy living, love and freedom’ should know that it’s built on the backs of exploited immigrant workers whose vulnerabilities were taken advantage of, whose pay was stolen, who were physically mistreated until they dripped sweat into the kombucha, and who were often fired when they spoke up,” said Rob Hennig,  co-managing partner of Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh LLP (HKRS) and attorney of record for the kombucha factory workers. “The workers who took this behavior to court should have the respect of all of us, and Synergy Kombucha drinkers should know that the billionaire owner of this wellness beverage was found by a Los Angeles County judge to lack ‘even a minimal degree of credibility.”


In testimony and depositions, company CEO George Thomas ‘GT’ Dave denied that the Vernon factory had any workplace issues and perfectly complied with all labor laws, but the court found that he and his chief operating officer “demonstrated a total absence of credibility in their testimony.” In a post-trial hearing, the judge “found that Mr. Dave lied through his teeth and is not in any way, shape, or form credible.”


The company has been ordered to pay back all the wages owed to the eleven named-Plaintiffs for unpaid overtime and the denial of meal and rest breaks, with interest incurred over the near-decade of litigation. The total ruling amounts to $452,794.49.


“It was very painful to work at that company, and I wouldn’t want other people to go through the same thing working there,” said plaintiff Acemio Garay. “I never worked for a company like Millennium. I never saw the sun for many years. I never spent the whole day with my family. And the saddest thing is how they treated us in there.”


Evidence showing the patterns of wage theft, abuse and retaliation were consistent throughout the first phase of trial. GT’s Living Foods deliberately hired undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America knowing that they would be less likely to complain than documented workers, and then required workers who could not read in their native Spanish, let alone English, to sign documents they could not understand—often falsified timesheets and illegal liability waivers—in order to receive their paychecks. Those checks frequently failed to include overtime pay, despite workers regularly working 10-18 hours daily. “This was my first job in this county,” said plaintiff Sergio Lopez. “I would see that there were no breaks, not even a cup of water to drink, and I believed that that was the way things were in the United States.”


Workers were denied legally required rest breaks and had to work long hours without a bathroom or water breaks, and some were physically hit as they moved through the factory.


When workers spoke up, they were punished by being moved back and forth between high heat areas and refrigerated areas of the factory. “My sweaty clothes turned ice cold,” said plaintiff Amancio Palacios, “and when I asked for warm clothing the supervisor just stood at the door and watched me.” Many were fired over the slightest issue, and those who filed lawsuits were fired within weeks of lodging their complaints.


Evidence from court documents shows that employees of GT Living Foods worked shifts lasting 10 hours or more, with some workers testifying that they worked for up to 18 hours daily. They were denied proper rest or meal breaks or even the right to leave the factory, and they were subject to the theft of hundreds of hours of overtime pay. Workers who spoke out about abuses were made to do retaliatory assignments or were illegally terminated or forced to quit.


The second phase of trial is expected to reconvene at the end of the year, with the third and final phase pending, covering abuses suffered from 2013 up to the present day for all non-exempt employees, with potential for substantial exposure far beyond the restitution ordered in this case. Workers claim that the company did not completely fix its wage and hour violations, and that unfair working conditions continue to the present day. Employees allege that they, along with their coworkers, were still not paid all wages owed, not allowed to take legally compliant breaks, were retaliated against and even terminated for complaining. In short, it is alleged in several ongoing lawsuits that GT Living Foods continues to operate illegally and unjustly. Meanwhile, the company claims that their famed Kombucha is a “mission of purpose” and that they “do not cut corners for profit”.


“The Court recognized that GT Living Foods workers suffered theft, abuse and retaliation,” said attorney Helen You of HKRS. “It’s time GT Living Foods does the right thing for its workers and its customers.”