Going back at least to 2016, the IRS has recognized that the pizza delivery industry has notoriously violated the fair wage and hour laws when it comes to employing pizza delivery drivers. Yet, lawsuits against pizza companies for underpaying and under-reimbursing pizza delivery drivers are still being filed across the nation. These range from individual claims to class actions for pizza delivery drivers. Wage theft is a rampant practice in the industry. If you are a delivery driver employed by a company to deliver just their food or product, you may be a victim of wage theft. If you are a victim of the practices below, talk to a wage and hour lawyer to learn more about your rights.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is the practice of underpaying an employee either by intentionally or ignorantly failing to follow the Federal Wage and Hour Laws that require employers to fairly compensate employees in accordance with minimum wage laws and business use of vehicle requirements.
How Do Companies Underpay Pizza Delivery Drivers?
The four main ways pizza companies underpay their delivery drivers are:
- Under-reimbursing for vehicle use,
- Failing to compensate at the proper minimum wage rate,
- Compensating drivers under the driver pay rate when they take on non-driver responsibilities, and;
- Not paying drivers for their time.
What Pay Do Federal Wage and Hour Laws Require Pizza Drivers to be Paid?
Federal Wage and Hour Laws require that pizza delivery drivers be paid minimum wage or a minimum wage equivalent and either actual expenses or a federally set mileage reimbursement.
Does Federal Law Allow Pizza Companies to Pay Drivers at the Tipped Employee Rate?
Yes. Federal Wage and Hour Laws permit the paying of delivery drivers at the tipped employee rate most often used for waitstaff. This rate is currently $2.12. However, if the actual amount they earn falls below minimum wage ($7.25 currently), then the employer is required to make up the difference. This is where many employers in the pizza delivery industry miss the mark.
Are Pizza Companies Required to Reimburse Deliver Drivers for Business Use of the Vehicle?
Yes. Under federal law, pizza companies may choose to either reimburse drivers for the exact maintenance costs associated with the business use of their personal vehicle or they may choose to reimburse them for mileage at the rate set by the IRS. (This rate varies year-to-year but was raised to 62.5 cents per mile for the last half of 2022.)
When Must a Pizza Company Pay a Driver the Full Minim Wage Rate vs Tipped Rate?
When a delivery driver is doing jobs that do not earn tips such as working in the kitchen then the pizza company must pay them for that time as a non-tipped employee. Additionally, if the actual earnings of the driver considering tips plus the $2.12 paid do not add up to the federal or state minimum wage (whichever is higher), then the employer must make up the difference. If the driver is required to sit for long periods and wait but few or no deliveries are being made, this time could qualify as time that the employer must make u the wage difference.
How Can Employees Prevent Wage Theft?
While wage theft can be hard to spot, an employee can limit or prevent it by keeping a log of all tips earned, all actual expenses or mileage (depending upon what your employer reimburses), as well as keeping a log of the time you work other jobs and downtime. If you also work in capacities than as a driver, submit that time and request reimbursement for the difference along with your mileage/expenses. If your employer refuses or fails to reimburse your documented time or expenses, talk to a wage and hour lawyer about your rights.
What Should I Do if I Have Been a Victim of Wage Theft?
If you suspect that your employer now or in the past failed to compensate you in accordance with the above federal wage requirements, talk to a wage and hour attorney to discuss your options. Different law firms are handling cases against different companies across the nation. If you would like assistance finding a law firm to handle your case, call us at 1-800-298-0111.