The owner and operator of a number of Alaska Papa John’s franchises has allegedly paid delivery drivers less than the federal hourly minimum wage as a result of failing to properly reimburse them for personal vehicle use.
The plaintiff, a former delivery worker, alleges in his 19-page lawsuit that he and other Papa John’s drivers were required to work “dual jobs” at defendant Buckstone West, LLC’s restaurants, in particular to deliver food to customers, for which they would receive tips, while also working inside the stores to handle non-tipped duties.
The case claims Buckstone required Papa John’s drivers to “clock out” from working inside the store and “clock in” for making deliveries when leaving the restaurant to deliver food, which changed the individuals’ hourly pay rates. According to the lawsuit, however, the defendant has failed to reimburse delivery drivers at the IRS standard business mileage rate for the use of their cars and related expenses, which has in turn lowered their hourly wage rate below the federal minimum.
According to the case, the Papa John’s franchisee claimed to have reimbursed the plaintiff and similarly situated drivers “at or around $1.50 per mile” as a reasonable approximation of expenses related to personal vehicle use, including costs for gasoline, parts and fluid, repair and maintenance, insurance, depreciation and cell phone and data usage. In reality, the actual reimbursement rate paid by Buckstone to Papa John’s delivery drivers was $0, the complaint claims.
“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 case alleges.
Despite charging a delivery fee on each order separate from the price of food, the defendant did not remit this fee to drivers, who generally completed approximately two to three deliveries per hour, the complaint states. Alaska Papa John’s drivers’ typical delivery distances ranged from six to eight miles from the restaurant, and the plaintiff’s estimated average delivery was seven miles from the restaurant, or 14 miles round-trip, the suit says.
Overall, the unreimbursed vehicle use expenses amount to a “kick back” to Buckstone West in an amount sufficient to trigger minimum wage violations, the case contends:
“In 2021, for example, Defendant under-reimbursed Plaintiff and other Delivery Drivers at a rate of 56 cents per mile (IRS standard rate of 56 cents minus the actual reimbursement of 0 cents).
Thus, while making deliveries (assuming 2.5 deliveries per hour at 14 miles per delivery), Plaintiff has consistently ‘kicked back’ to Defendant approximately $19.60 per hour ($7.84 per delivery x 2.5 deliveries per hour).”
Moreover, the lawsuit claims the plaintiff occasionally worked upward of 40 hours in a week and subsequently did not receive proper overtime pay due to the unreimbursed vehicle mileage expenses.
The suit alleges Buckstone has run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Alaska Wage and Hour Act.
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