Pizza Hut Class Action Lawsuit
About 20,000 to 30,000 Pizza Hut delivery drivers are set to benefit as eligible plaintiffs from a national collective lawsuit filed against Overland Park’s NPC International Inc. A federal court in Kansas has certified the class action lawsuit accusing the franchisee, with the largest chain of Pizza Hut restaurants, of minimum wage violation. The plaintiffs claim NPC is paying lowballed wages and mileage reimbursements to delivery drivers. It covers all drivers worked for 1,135 NPC Pizza Hut locations across 28 states in the past three years preceding March 28th, 2011.
The conditional certification was approved by U.S. District Court Judge John Lungstrum on March 29th. He allowed the lawsuit to move forward under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as demanded by the plaintiffs. The judge observed that the plaintiffs had substantial evidence to show that the eligible employees were the victims of a single policy in violation of the federal minimum wage.
The lawsuit, filed by a Kansas City based law seeks unspecified compensatory and liquidated damages from NPC. According to the plaintiffs, the low reimbursements for vehicle expenses keep the wages of delivery drivers at NPC operated Pizza Hut restaurants below minimum wages prescribed by federal and state authorities. The plaintiffs claim to have been discriminated by NPC and not paid as per the Internal Revenue Service standard mileage rate, i.e. 51 cents a mile in 2011, which the franchise pays only to its managers and executives.
Rick Paul, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, explained that though the delivery drivers at NPC stores are paid minimum wages guaranteed under the federal or state laws, the low rate of vehicle reimbursements paid by the employers effectively brings down their pay to below the minimum wage scale. The lawsuit claims that drivers use their own vehicles and have to pay from their pocket as reimbursements for operating their vehicles are far less than the IRS mileage standard rate.
Similar Lawsuits Filed in the Past
There are several such cases calling for class action against violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act filed in the past against Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and such other franchise operations.
Castillo Class Action
It is the most famous class action lawsuit involving Pizza Hut and delivery drivers. The original lawsuit was filed by Franklin Castillo, a delivery driver, at a Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2004 against Pizza Hut, Inc. and its franchise RLLW, Inc. Two other drivers, Christopher Ostrowski and Danny Ljungberg, joined him in an amended complaint, accusing the respondents of violating Labor Code Sections 1194 and 2802 and California regulations. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant required them to use their own vehicles to deliver pizzas but refused to fully pay necessary expenses as a consequence of their duties. The class action lawsuit sought damages, unpaid wages, penalties, and injunctive relief. Pizza Hut paid $5.1 million as a settlement in April 2006 that benefited all drivers working with the fast food chain in California.
Pizza Hut Drivers Class Action in Colorado
On January 5, 2010, several Pizza Hut drivers came together and filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiffs seek action against the defendant for failing to reimburse them adequately for driving expenses that brought down their compensation effectively below minimum wage standards.
Domino's Delivery Drivers Case
Pizza Hut’s business competitor Domino’s Pizza, Inc is also embroiled in a class action law suit filed by its delivery drivers. On June 29, 2010, a Minnesota certified the lawsuit as class action. The plaintiffs accused Domino’s of not paying its pizza delivery drivers the minimum wage. Domino’s pays drivers per delivery and it doesn’t include reimbursement for gas, mileage, and other travel expenses. The drivers’ wagers effectively below the level set by federal minimum wage after deducting the automobile expenses they pay from their salary to deliver the orders.
The lawsuit put forth a claim on “delivery charges” paid by the customers but pocketed by Domino’s. The judgment in the case will benefit 22,000 delivery drivers worked at corporate owned Domino’s locations in all states New York and California, since March 2006.
Sears Delivery Driver Lawsuit
Employees engaged as “independent contractors” by Home Delivery America and Sears Logistics Services seek a class action against their employer in Massachusetts. The lawsuit, filed on March 2nd, 2011, claims that the private vehicles they own or on lease bear the company logo and they are under service conditions of the employer during the delivery and installation of Sears products. The plaintiffs claim compensation equal to full time employees and reimbursement for hiring helpers.
California Class Action Lawsuit Against Domino's
A group of Domino's pizza truck drivers has filed a class action lawsuit in California, accusing the defendant of violating several provisions of the labor laws, including the minimum wage. The lawsuit seeks damages for the defendant’s failure to allow timely off duty meals, pay for missed and untimely meal periods, issue accurate and itemized wage statements, and deceptive and fraudulent practices.
Pizza Hut and Violation of Labor Laws
Despite a brand adored by consumers, Pizza Hut faces several allegations of fragrant violation of labor laws. In 1997, the U.S. Department of Labor imposed $194,400 fine on Pizza Hut for employing minors to operate electrically powered major equipment in 26 of its restaurants. In 2006, the U.S. Labor Department fined Hart Management Inc., owners of a Pizza Hut store in Superior, $7,865 for violation of child labor laws. Officials found that the restaurant had employed three 17 year olds to operate a car and two minors on baking duties. In January 21st, 2011, Anetra Skene, a female employee at a Pizza Hut location in South Medford, Texas, sued NPA for paying less than her male counterparts in the same store. She also alleged discrimination based on gender while considering policy violations.