Two drivers have filed a class-action lawsuit against their employer, Waitr Holdings, Inc., alleging the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to meet minimum wage requirements. The suit also claims that some drivers had been misclassified as contractors while performing the work of employees.
The suit, which was submitted late last month to Louisiana’s Eastern District Court, claims Waitr did not reimburse its workers for mileage driven, a figure that’s typically a little over 50 cents per mile. In total, they claim, this led to both plaintiffs being stiffed by around $260 per week. “Waitr’s systematic failure to adequately reimburse automobile expenses constitutes a ‘kickback’ to Waitr such that the hourly wages they pay to Plaintiffs and the Putative Class Members was and continues to be below the minimum wage,” the suit states.
In recent years, similar suits by contractors claiming they’d been asked to do the work of employees have been filed against other gig economy platforms such as Uber and Lyft, while food delivery services like DoorDash and Instacart have recently faced backlash for subsidizing wages with their workers’ own tips.
If the name Waitr doesn’t ring a bell for those of you in New York or California, that’s because it currently only operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It scooped up similar upstart delivery service Bite Squad in December—which itself had acquired 18 other local delivery companies—which covers much of the same territory, as well as Nevada, North Carolina, the Dakotas, Ohio, Virginia, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Washington, Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota. Waitr also happens to be partially funded by football star Drew Brees and owned by Tilman J. Fertitta—better known as the owner of such disparate assets as the Houston Rockets and the Rainforest Cafe chain of restaurants.
Because this service operates outside the highly dense metro regions of the coasts, at least anecdotally, many drivers are putting considerable wear and tear on their vehicles. “The gas reimbursement is a dollar an order but some orders are 5 to 10 miles away from the restaurant which can really cause problems when you have to fill up 4 to 5 times a pay period,” one Bite Squad driver alleged on Glassdoor. “Half of my pay ends up back in my gas tank.”
Nearly a week after publication of this article, Waitr responded with the following statement:
Our drivers are on the front lines for us every day and they are a vital part of our success. We are committed to providing a positive work experience centered on respect and fair treatment. Waitr Holdings has built its business on employing W-2 drivers, unlike other delivery service providers that only use contractors, offering them all the benefits that come with an employee relationship. Our drivers keep 100% of their tips and our compensation practices comply with all applicable laws and regulations and are in line with standards in the service industry.
The lawsuit is embedded in full below:
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Updated with comment from Waitr