Hershey lawsuit (re child labour in Côte d’Ivoire, filed in California)
Snapshot: 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 violated these states’ consumer protection laws by not disclosing that their cocoa suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire rely on child labour. In both cases, federal jugdes dismissed the cases, ruling that the claims were not actionable under the consumer protection laws invoked.
For subsequent lawsuit in Massachusetts, see Hershey lawsuit (re child labour in Côte d’Ivoire, filed in Massachusetts)
California lawsuit (Dana v. The Hershey Company et al., 2015)
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.
- 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
- 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
- Shared Goodness: Hershey’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report Highlights, Hershey's, 2016
- Dana v. The Hershey Company et al. [subscription required, all court documents]