DoorDash, Inc. faces a proposed class/collective action filed by four drivers who claim they were misclassified by the food delivery platform as independent contractors. The lawsuit alleges that although the level of control DoorDash maintains over drivers’ work is characteristic of an employer/employee relationship, the company has denied workers certain employee protections, such as minimum and overtime wages, that are guaranteed under federal and state law.
Filed in California, thefront linefor the gig economy’s contractor/employee debate, the case claims DoorDash uses “metrics” as a means to control drivers’ work. According to the complaint, delivery drivers—known as “dashers”—must meet DoorDash’s “strict delivery requirements,” including completing deliveries on time and maintaining a high customer rating, completion rate and acceptance rate, or risk termination. DoorDash, the case says, reserves the exclusive right to set rates, direct workers as to how a delivery must be performed, discipline drivers by denying access to preferred jobs or even block an individual from the Dasher app “for myriad reasons.”
The lawsuit argues that DoorDash’s level of control over workers precludes the company from passing the first prong of what’s known as the “ABC test.” According to the case, states including California, Illinois, and Massachusetts have codified this test, which was established by a California Supreme Court ruling inDynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, as a means to determine whether a company has misclassified workers as independent contractors. Under the ABC test, the suit explains, workers are presumed to be employees unless a company can meet all three of the following conditions:
The worker is “free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work;”
The worker performs work that is “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business;” and
The worker is “customarily engaged” in an independently established business “of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”
Not only does DoorDash fail the first prong given its level of control over workers, the plaintiffs contest, but the company’s business model fails to meet the other two conditions as well. The case claims DoorDash is “wholly dependent” on dashers to provide food delivery, a service that the suit argues is “central to DoorDash’s business.” Moreover, dashers, the lawsuit alleges, cannot be considered autonomous independent business owners given they are dependent on the DoorDash app to make deliveries and have no ability to compete for and maintain relationships with customers.
The suit claims DoorDash’s misclassification of drivers as independent contractors denies workers “even the most basic protections of federal and state labor laws,” including minimum and overtime pay, reimbursement for business expenses, insurance and workers’ compensation. Further, the case argues that the defendant’s conduct has not only injured its own workers but has negatively impacted all workers in the gig economy, as well as competitors who “doplay by the rules.” From the case:
“DoorDash’s misclassification of Dashers harms other workers in similar positions, such as drivers, cyclists, and deliverers who are misclassified as independent contractors by other delivery and rideshare companies, because it shapes the labor market, drives down wages and undermines workers’ ability to make use of the important protections of federal and their state’s labor laws.”
The lawsuit seeks to cover anyone who is not subject to the defendant’sarbitration clauseand performed at least one delivery for DoorDash during the past three years. Separate classes have been proposed for California, Illinois, and Massachusetts dashers for whom the time limit for filing lawsuits varies.