Hershey lawsuit (re child labour in Côte d’Ivoire)

Hershey logo wikipedia commons

In 2015 and 2018, American consumers filed two separate class action lawsuits against The Hershey Company (Hershey’s), in California and Massachusetts U.S. district courts respectively. The claimants allege that the company is violating these states’ consumer protection laws by not disclosing that their cocoa suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire rely on the worst forms of child labour. 

Dana v. The Hershey Company et al.

On 28 September 2015, the Hagens Bergman Sobol Shapiro LLP law firm filed a class action lawsuit against Hershey's on behalf of Laura Dana and Californian consumers in front of the US district court for the Northern District of California. The claimants allege that the worst forms of child labour are used in Côte d'Ivoire to produce Hershey's chocolate products, and that the company's failure to disclose this information to consumers at the time of sale violates the state's consumer protection laws. They further allege that they would not have bought the company's products had they been made aware of the conditions in which they had been produced. They referred to reports by the US Department of Labor Bureau of International Affairs which show that cocoa from Côte d'Ivoire is very likely to be the result of forced and child labour. The claimants argued that Hershey's advertising practices violate the California Unfair Competition law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and the False Advertising law.

On 13 February 2016, Hershey's asked the California federal judge to dismiss the class action, arguing that it did not actively conceal information or make misleading representations, and that California law does not require disclosure regarding working conditions in a company's entire supply chains. The company argued that the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act only requires disclosure of efforts made to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from a company's direct supply chain.

On 29 March 2016, the chief magistrate judge dismissed the claim, stating that it was sound policy not to place duties on manufacturers to disclose certain facts about their products, as the courts are not suited to determine which issues are legitimately important to customers. Moreover, the judge concluded that while working conditions at some of Hershey's suppliers were deplorable, the issue could not be addressed through the California laws invoked in the class action.

Tomasella v. The Hershey Company et al.

Following the dismissal of the California lawsuit, the same law firm filed a class action lawsuit against Hershey's on behalf of Danell Tomasella and consumers in front of the US district court for the Northern District of Massachusetts. The claimants allege that Hershey's is misleading consumers and profiting from child labour by not disclosing that their cocoa suppliers in Côte d'Ivoire rely on the worst forms of child labour. This claim relies on the argument that Hershey's human rights, sustainability and corporate responsibility statements - which assert the company's "zero tolerance" for trafficking and child labour - constitute a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.

The claimants allege that Hershey's was aware of the risks of child labour in its supply chain, failed to disclose this information at the time of sale, and that consumers were therefore deceived into buying a product that they otherwise would not have bought. The claimants do not refer to specific instances of child labour in the company's supply chain, but rely on reports citing the extensive use of child labour in cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire and on Hershey's public disclosures that the country is one of their primary sources of cocoa.

On 19 April 2018, Hershey's filed a motion to dismiss and argued that Massachusetts law does not force companies to disclose the presence of slave labour at the time of sale, and that to do so would be "impractical". The company further claims that it has publicly disclosed information about labour practices of its suppliers in West Africa and has been transparent about the steps taken to address these issues.

In January 2019, a federal judge in Boston dismissed the lawsuit because the consumers' claims were not actionable under Massachusetts law and they failed to show that the companies deceived them.

News:
Nestlé, Hershey say no room for child labor on labels, Law360 [subscription required], 20 April 2018
Consumers bring child labour claim against Hershey’s, Coffee & Cocoa International, 3 April 2018
New Human Rights Case Alleging Deception of Consumers Filed Against Food Companies (This Time on the East Coast), JD Supra, 7 March 2018
Hagens Berman: Chocolate Makers Hershey’s and Mars Hit with Lawsuits over Alleged Use of Child and Slave Labor, BusinessWire, 26 Feb 2018
Hershey and Nestlé cocoa slave labor lawsuits dismissed, Confectionery News, 30 Mars 2016
Nestle, Hershey dodge child slave-labor disclosure suits, Law360 [subscription required], 29 March 2016
Was your Easter Chocolate Made with Child Labor?, Fortune, 25 March 2016
The Shocking Child Slavery Claims About Your Favorite Chocolate Bars, Refinery 29, 30 Sep 2015
Chocolate Giants Face Slave Labour Lawsuits, Courthouse News Service (USA), 29 Sep 2015
-  Mars, Nestlé and Hershey face fresh cocoa child labor class action lawsuits, Confectionery News, 29 Sep 2015
Hershey, Nestle, Mars Face False Ad Suits Over Child Slaves, Law360, 28 Sep 2015

Company documents:
Shared Goodness: Hershey’s 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Hershey's, 2017
Shared Goodness: Hershey’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report Highlights, Hershey's, 2016

Court documents:
Tomasella v. The Hershey Company et al. [subscription required, all court documents]
- Dana v. The Hershey Company et al. [subscription required, all court documents]

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
1 February 2019

US judge dismisses 2 class action lawsuits against Nestlé & Hershey for failure to disclose child labour practices on their chocolate products’ labels

Author: Tina Bellon, Reuters

"Nestle, Hershey escape class action lawsuit over cocoa sources using child labor", 31 Jan 2019

A federal judge in Boston on Wednesday dismissed two proposed class action lawsuits by consumers alleging Nestle USA Inc and The Hershey Co had failed to disclose child labor practices on their chocolate products’ labels, saying their claims were not actionable under Massachusetts law.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said that, while it was “beyond dispute” that the use of child and slave labor was widespread at cocoa plants in the Ivory Coast, the Massachusetts consumers filing the lawsuits failed to show the companies deceived them.

Read the full post here

Article
7 November 2018

Commentary: Chocolate makers facing lawsuits over failure to effectively address use of child labour in cocoa supply chains

Author: Rosa Furneaux, Mother Jones (USA)

"Your Halloween Candy’s Hidden Ingredient: Child Slave Labor", 31 Oct 2018

...[A] recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit in a long-running lawsuit against Nestlé and...Cargill...alleges the companies aided and abetted child slavery on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast...The lawsuit is just one of several legal actions against chocolate giants in recent years involving human-rights abuses in West Africa...[T]hree American plaintiffs brought separate suits against Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey’s..., and argued that the companies were violating California consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that their products’ supply chain may involve child slave labor...[T]he Ninth Circuit upheld the Mars dismissal...The fates of the suits against Nestlé and Hershey’s are yet to be decided...

Nestlé, like most other large chocolate manufacturers, sources some of its beans from the Ivory Coast, making it difficult to remove the risk that their supply chain is infected with child labor...Nestlé...insists it is working to tackle the problem...According to Nestlé’s website, the company...has helped support families so they can afford to keep their kids in school rather than sending them off to work.  Nestlé also has put into place a monitoring system...and report the findings back to the company and its suppliers...The chocolate makers’ financial outlays to prevent child exploitation don’t necessarily reflect progress on the ground...

Read the full post here

Article
20 April 2018

Nestlé, Hershey Say No Room For Child Labor On Labels

Author: Sean Forbes, Law360

Nestlé and Hershey urged a Massachusetts federal court to toss separate proposed consumer class actions alleging that the companies failed to disclose information about forced child labor in their chocolate supply chains, arguing that the requested disclosures don't belong on every candy label...In separate briefs, Nestlé and Hershey each argued that the suits, both filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, can't stand in part because [Massachusetts law] doesn't require companies to make such disclosures on wrappers, and that to do so would be impractical...Both companies also noted that, even though the possibility of forced labor in their supply chains wasn't included on the candy bars' labels, that information is available on the companies' websites, according to their filings. And there have been plenty of media reports, documentaries and political debate about the problem of child labor in the cocoa industry, according to the motions...A spokesman for Hershey told Law360 in an email that similar suits against it failed in California, adding that like Nestle, it is working on programs that focus on preventive forced labor.

Read the full post here

Article
3 April 2018

Consumers bring child labour claim against Hershey's

Author: Coffee & Cocoa

A consumer class action has been filed in the federal district court of Massachusetts, alleging that Hershey's has been misleading consumers by failing to disclose alleged child labour in its supply chains to consumers at the point of purchase. Similar class action lawsuits have now also been brought against Mars and Nestlé in the same district..."The claimants are seeking to rely on Hershey's public human rights, sustainability and corporate responsibility statements to bring claims under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and in unjust enrichment," said the law firm...The law firm said the claim centres on allegations that Hershey's knew that there is child labour within its supply chain, that Hershey's failed to disclose such information at the point of sale to consumers and that consumers were thereby deceived into buying a product that they would otherwise not buy (or paying more for the product than they otherwise would). It is alleged that this is a breach of Massachusetts consumer protection law and/or that Hershey's received an unjust enrichment as a result of its failure to disclose.

Read the full post here

Article
26 February 2018

Hagens Berman: Chocolate Makers Hershey’s and Mars Hit with Lawsuits over Alleged Use of Child and Slave Labor

Author: Hagens Berman, Business Wire

The Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. are facing two class-action lawsuits filed by Massachusetts consumers stating the two companies – like Nestle – hid from purchasers that they regularly import cocoa beans from suppliers in the Ivory Coast using the worst forms of child labor as recognized by the UN, including dangerous child labor and the slave labor of trafficked children, according to Hagens Berman..."Like Nestle, Mars and Hershey's have failed to take action on this issue, despite clear knowledge of their support of the use of child and slave labor, and have also failed to inform consumers at point-of-sale that their purchases are supporting this supply chain linked directly to atrocious human rights violations," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.

Read the full post here

Article
30 March 2016

Hershey and Nestlé cocoa slave labor lawsuits dismissed

Author: Oliver Nieburg, Confectionery News

A district court in California has thrown out lawsuits accusing Hershey and Nestlé of misleading consumers by failing to disclose cocoa in some chocolate brands may come from slave labor. 

Read the full post here

Article
29 March 2016

Nestle, Hershey Dodge Child Slave-Labor Disclosure Suits

Author: Kat Greene, Law360

Nestle USA Inc. and The Hershey Co. wrapped up a pair of proposed class actions alleging the companies failed to disclose they make their candies using cocoa beans harvested by child slaves, when a California federal judge found Tuesday the law doesn't require any such label...The confectioners defeated the nearly identical suits when U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero issued two nearly identical dismissal orders concluding that, while child slave labor on Africa's Ivory Coast presents an ethical problem for the companies, Hershey and Nestle aren't required to disclose the practices on their candy labels...A spokeswoman for Nestle said the company is pleased with the court's decision to dismiss the case. "Consumer class actions are not the way to solve such a serious and complex issue as forced child labor," the spokeswoman said. "The use of forced child labor goes against everything Nestle stands for and Nestle is committed to eradicating it from our supply chain."

Read the full post here

Article
30 September 2015

Mars, Nestlé and Hershey face fresh cocoa child labor class action lawsuits

Author: Oliver Nieburg, Confectionary News (France)

Three class action lawsuits brought in California allege Mars, Nestlé and Hershey use child labor to produce their best-selling chocolate brands. [Hagens Berman] brought the cases on behalf of private consumers…who say they would not have purchased the firm’s chocolate products if they knew they were produced through child labor…Nestlé told ConfectionaryNews it would contest the case [and] “[t]he issue cannot be properly addressed through lawsuits”…In 2009, Mars committed to sourcing only certified cocoa by 2020…Hershey’s head of corporate communication…told [ConfectionaryNews]: “The allegations in the lawsuit are not new”…The lawsuit alleges over 1.1m children in Côte d’Ivoire were engaged in the most common Worst Forms of Child Labour [including] lifting heavy loads, working with dangerous tools and exposure to toxic chemicals…Hagens Berman’s suits also claim children are trafficked into Côte d’Ivoire from other countries…before being forced to work under conditions of physical violence without pay...

Read the full post here

Article
30 September 2015

The Shocking Child Slavery Claims About Your Favorite Chocolate Bars

Author: Torey Van Oot, Refinery 29 (USA)

…[Three] lawsuits, filed by the law firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, claim [Hershey, Nestlé and Mars] source cocoa beans from suppliers in the Ivory Coast that use child laborers, some of whom are trafficked or forced into the work…Failing to disclose that the suppliers use child labor would be a violation of California law, the firm alleges…[A] Hershey spokesman said the company is "committed to the ethical and responsible sourcing of all of our product ingredients and have no tolerance for illegal practices, including children used as forced labor in cocoa farming." He cited the company's role in industry-wide efforts to curb such labor practices…Nestlé told The Daily Beast that the allegations are "without merit."…Mars told The Daily Beast that the company "shares the widely-held view that child labor and trafficking is abhorrent and rooted in complex economic, political, and social issues"…

Read the full post here

Article
29 September 2015

Chocolate Giants Face Slave Labor Lawsuits

Author: Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Service (USA)

Three of the nation's largest chocolate companies - Mars, Nestlé and Hershey - get cocoa from suppliers that use child slave labor, customers claimed Monday in three federal class actions.  All three lawsuits…claim the candy giants "turn a blind eye" to human rights abuses by cocoa suppliers in West Africa while falsely portraying themselves as socially and ethically responsible…They accuse the companies of false advertising and violations of California business and consumer laws…All cite the defendants' corporate responsibility statements…A Nestle spokesman said the company stands by its position that child labor is unacceptable and goes against "everything Nestlé stands for."…More than 4,000 children work at forced labor to produce cocoa on Ivory Coast plantations, according to a Tulane University study…All plaintiffs seek class certification, declaratory judgment, restitution and an injunction against unfair and deceptive business practices…A spokesman for Hershey told Courthouse News the issues presented in the class action "are not new and reflect long-term challenges in cocoa-growing countries…”

Read the full post here