Sec­ond Domino’s fran­chise faces suit

Owner ac­cused of pay­ing driv­ers less than min­i­mum wage

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn LaRowe

A law­suit filed in a Texarkana, Ark., fed­eral court this month ac­cuses the owner of mul­ti­ple Domino’s Pizza fran­chises of pay­ing de­liv­ery driv­ers less than min­i­mum wage in vi­o­la­tion of state and fed­eral laws.

The com­plaint was filed Sept. 7 in the Texarkana Divi­sion of the Western Dis­trict of Arkansas on be­half of David Wright by Lit­tle Rock lawyer John Coul­ter. Wright is a Texarkana, Ark., res­i­dent who works as a de­liv­ery driver for a Domino’s store in Texarkana, Ark. The suit seeks to in­clude other Domino’s de­liv­ery driv­ers as a col­lec­tive class who have worked for stores op­er­ated by Tiger Eye Pizza, a cor­po­ra­tion owned by Ken Schroepfer, in the three years

be­fore the fil­ing of the law­suit.

The suit ac­cuses Tiger Eye and Schroepfer of vi­o­lat­ing the fed­eral Fair La­bor Stan­dards Act and the Arkansas Min­i­mum Wage Act. Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, de­liv­ery driv­ers are paid ac­cord­ing to a for­mula that es­sen­tially amounts to less than Arkansas’ min­i­mum wage of $8.50.

The suit al­leges driv­ers are paid “min­i­mum wage mi­nus a tip credit” for their time while drop­ping piz­zas at the doors of cus­tomers.

“De­fen­dants re­quire de­liv­ery driv­ers to in­cur and/or pay job-re­lated ex­penses, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to au­to­mo­bile costs and de­pre­ci­a­tion, gaso­line ex­penses, au­to­mo­bile main­te­nance and parts, in­sur­ance, fi­nanc­ing, cell­phone costs, GPS charges, and other equip­ment nec­es­sary for de­liv­ery driv­ers to com­plete their job du­ties,” the com­plaint states.

Driv­ers are not re­im­bursed for their ac­tual ex­penses or paid mileage at the stan­dard busi­ness rate de­fined by the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice.

“De­liv­ery driv­ers at the Tiger Eye Domino’s Pizza stores are re­im­bursed a flat rate per de­liv­ery, no mat­ter how many miles the de­liv­er­ies take to com­plete,” the com­plaint states.

The com­plaint notes the per-mile stan­dard busi­ness rates de­fined by the IRS as 57.5 cents in 2015; 54 cents in 2016; 53.5 cents in 2017; and 54.5 cents in 2018.

“Re­gard­less of the pre­cise amount of the per-de­liv­ery re­im­burse­ment at any given point in time, de­fen­dant’s re­im­burse­ment for­mula has re­sulted in an un­rea­son­able un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of de­liv­ery driv­ers’ au­to­mo­bile ex­penses through­out the re­cov­ery pe­riod, caus­ing sys­tem­atic vi­o­la­tions of the min­i­mum wage laws,” the com­plaint al­leges. “Be­cause de­fen­dants paid their driv­ers a gross hourly wage at pre­cisely, or at least very close to, the ap­pli­ca­ble min­i­mum wage, and be­cause the de­liv­ery driv­ers in­curred un­re­im­bursed au­to­mo­bile ex­penses and other job ex­penses, the de­liv­ery driv­ers ‘kicked back’ to de­fen­dants in an amount to cause min­i­mum wage vi­o­la­tions.”

The suit also al­leges driv­ers work­ing for Tiger Eye have money de­ducted from their pay­checks to pay for uni­forms with the Domino’s logo, which they are re­quired to wear.

The suit com­plains that the “tipped” min­i­mum wage rate driv­ers are paid for mak­ing de­liv­er­ies plus the per-de­liv­ery re­im­buse­ment amount to less than min­i­mum wage when a driver’s ac­tual ex­penses are con­sid­ered. Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, Wright is paid $4.25 per hour while mak­ing de­liv­er­ies. Re­gard­less of the length of the trip, Wright re­ceives $1.10 per de­liv­ery as com­pen­sa­tion for ex­penses such as fuel, auto main­te­nance, in­sur­ance, cell­phone and other costs. Be­fore sum­mer 2018, Wright al­leges he was re­im­bursed at $1.05 per de­liv­ery.

The com­plaint al­leges Wright and other driv­ers rou­tinely “kicked back” about $4.38 an hour to the de­fen­dants.

“As a re­sult of un­re­im­bursed au­to­mo­bile ex­penses and other job-re­lated ex­penses, de­fen­dants have failed to pay David Wright min­i­mum wage as re­quired by law,” the com­plaint al­leges. The suit ar­gues that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the lit­i­ga­tion as a class ac­tion is the best way to han­dle the driv­ers’ claims.

“Cur­rent em­ploy­ees are of­ten afraid to as­sert their rights out of fear of di­rect and in­di­rect re­tal­i­a­tion. For­mer em­ploy­ees are fear­ful of bring­ing claims be­cause do­ing so can harm their em­ploy­ment, fu­ture em­ploy­ment, and fu­ture ef­forts to se­cure em­ploy­ment,” the com­plaint states. “Class ac­tions pro­vide class mem­bers who are not named in the com­plaint a de­gree of anonymity, which al­lows for vin­di­ca­tion of their rights while elim­i­nat­ing or re­duc­ing th­ese risks.”

The com­plaint is sim­i­lar to a law­suit filed in Fe­bru­ary in the Texarkana Divi­sion of the Eastern Dis­trict of Texas against EPSI, a Domino’s Pizza fran­chise op­er­a­tion which owns stores in a num­ber Texas cities in­clud­ing Texarkana, Mount Pleas­ant and New Bos­ton. U.S. Dis­trict Judge Robert Schroeder granted class cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the EPSI suit in April, and the case re­mains pend­ing.

The suit against Tiger Eye is pend­ing be­fore U.S. Dis­trict Judge Su­san Hickey. Tiger Eye has not yet filed a re­sponse to the com­plaint.

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