For the last several years the issue of fair minimum wage rights has been front and center in an increasingly passionate public debate. Because it is perceived as a classic David and Goliath mismatch, it is tempting to assume that employers are automatically the bad guys. But, as the following discussion demonstrates, the topic of fair worker compensation can be complicated, both morally and legally.
Perhaps you have noted recent reports of two Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) class action lawsuits against Domino’s franchisees in Georgia and California. This is not the first labor related action against Domino’s franchisees, nor is it the first against pizza chains and other fast food store owners. However, this one is a little different because it ties in a minimum wage action with the reimbursement of delivery drivers for their expenses. This fact makes the case less straightforward and shifts it into an interesting gray area. The strategy chosen by the plaintiff’s legal team also highlights the fact that legislative rules often seem designed to make justice harder to come by.
Filed by a pizza delivery driver in California, the lawsuit alleges that Hishmeh Enterprises, Inc. (the fifth largest Domino’s franchise owner in the country) deprived drivers of fair wages by imposing a faulty policy to determine reimbursement rates. The plaintiffs are not claiming that the store owners were failing to pay the federal $7.25/hour minimum wage for the hours they worked. They are instead asserting that the way in which the owners paid them for vehicle expenses subtracts “value” from their overall compensation and constitutes an FLSA violation.