A proposed class action claims Instacart has misclassified delivery drivers and full-service shoppers as independent contractors and failed to pay them proper wages and reimbursement for business expenses.
According to the 12-page case, San Francisco-based Maplebear, Inc., who operates the Instacart same-day grocery delivery platform, should have classified drivers as bona fide employees, who would thereby be entitled to certain wage protections under the New York Labor Law. Instead, Instacart drivers have been forced to pay for their own business expenses—including the costs of gas, vehicle maintenance, insurance and phone and data usage—out of pocket while being denied minimum and overtime wages, the lawsuit claims.
The suit contends Instacart delivery drivers—specifically those who both shop for and deliver groceries to customers’ homes—should have been classified as employees given they perform services within Instacart’s usual course of business. Drivers are not typically independent business operators engaged in their own grocery delivery enterprise, and instead “wear the ‘hat’” of Instacart when delivering food to the company’s customers, the case explains.
Moreover, the lawsuit alleges Instacart maintains strict control over drivers’ job duties, including by communicating with customers and taking action against workers based on customer feedback. Customers may not request specific drivers and are required to place their orders through the Instacart platform instead of with a certain worker, according to the suit.
The case goes on to relay that Instacart drivers are not required to have any “special qualifications or experience” aside from a driver’s license, two years of driving experience and the ability to lift 30 to 40 pounds of groceries.
Drivers are further subject to Instacart’s control in that they must sign up for shifts in advance and wait in specified locations for job assignments, the suit adds.
Despite maintaining control over delivery drivers’ work, Instacart, the lawsuit says, does not reimburse them for out-of-pocket business expenses, such as the costs of owning or leasing their vehicles, gas, insurance and phone and data usage related to using the Instacart app. Instacart has also failed to ensure that workers receive the proper minimum wage, and the company instead sometimes pays them “based on a combination of fees per delivery and fees per item purchased,” according to the case. Per the suit, drivers’ unreimbursed business expenses, combined with Instacart’s alleged pay practices, have resulted in workers being paid below New York’s hourly minimum wage rate.
The lawsuit further alleges that Instacart drivers have been denied proper time-and-a-half overtime wages for every hour worked in excess of 40 each week.
The plaintiff, a Williamsville, New York resident who has worked for Instacart since November 2019, looks to require the defendant to pay workers all wages owed as a result of their alleged misclassification, and comply with New York state law by properly classifying drivers as bona fide employees.
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