Another pizza franchisee is hit with a driver lawsuit

A Pizza Hut operator in the Midwest was sued in a federal court after allegedly underpaying delivery drivers for the use of their personal cars. Such lawsuits are remarkably common.
pizza hut lawsuit
An Iowa Pizza Hut franchisee was sued for not reimbursing drivers enough for use of their personal vehicles. | Photo: Shutterstock

Employ delivery drivers? Make sure you’re paying standard mileage reimbursement.

A Pizza Hut operator based in West Des Moines, Ia., Comes Investments, has been sued in a federal court in Iowa, with the plaintiff arguing that the franchisee didn’t reimburse her expenses for using her personal car to make pizza deliveries.

In essence, the unreimbursed expenses reduced the driver’s per-hour pay by an estimated $16.10 based on the IRS mileage reimbursement rate. The driver suing the company, Michele Lopez, was paid less than minimum wage as a result.

It’s a similar lawsuit to one being fought against numerous franchisees and companies around the country, all largely over similar arguments—that the companies do not reimburse drivers enough for the use of their own vehicles.

Lawsuits have been filed, with many of them settled, against a variety of operators of large pizza chains, including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Hungry Howie’s, Marco’s and even Casey’s General Store. Many of these have led to large settlements, such as one $2 million settlement involving a Domino’s operator.

In the Pizza Hut lawsuit, Lopez argues that drivers work for wages and tips. She also argues that she was required to keep and maintain a safe and operable vehicle to make deliveries.

But she also says that the company did not reimburse her, or adequately reimburse her, for use of that personal vehicle—nor was she reimbursed for use of her personal cellphone. The operator did not track her expenses associated with use of that vehicle.

Lopez estimates she made four deliveries per hour in 2020, at about seven miles per delivery. At 28 total miles in 2020, when the mileage reimbursement rate was 57.5 cents per mile, that would amount to $16.10 per hour worth of unreimbursed costs.

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