On June 16, 2017, Markovits, Stock & DeMarco, LLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of delivery drivers who work or worked for the “It’s Only” Papa John’s franchisees operating in the Cincinnati, Ohio area—It’s Only Downtown Pizza, Inc., It’s Only Pizza, Inc., It’s Only Downtown Pizza II Inc., and It’s Only Papa’s Pizza LLC. The plaintiff seeks to represent all delivery drivers who have worked for the “It’s Only” Papa John’s franchisee over the last three years. The plaintiff alleges that, together, the defendants operate approximately 27 restaurants in the Cincinnati area.
Under-reimbursed automobile expenses
In the Complaint, the plaintiff-delivery driver alleges that he and his similarly situated co-workers were all paid at or near minimum wage for the hours they worked inside the restaurant, and a “tipped wage” while making deliveries. In addition, the plaintiff alleges that he was denied proper reimbursement for gasoline, auto maintenance, and other expenses. Specifically, he alleges that Papa John’s delivery drivers are reimbursed at a flat rate per delivery that is insufficient to cover his out of pocket expenses. The unreimbursed expenses, therefore, amount to an unlawful “kickback” to the company, causing the plaintiff’s effective hourly rate to drop below minimum wage. The plaintiff seeks reimbursement of expenses at the IRS mileage reimbursement rate, and additional damages.
In addition to requiring drivers to pay out-of-pocket for gas and auto expenses, the plaintiff alleges the “It’s Only” franchisees required their drivers to pay for uniforms and “insurance” (they did not receive health insurance) as a deduction from their paycheck. Like the under-reimbursed expenses, these deductions amount to “kickbacks” to the company, causing the plaintiff’s effective hourly rate to drop below minimum wage. The plaintiff seeks reimbursement of these deductions, and additional damages.
Unlawfully taking a “tip credit” from drivers’ wages
Finally, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants were not permitted to take a tip credit from his wages, therefore he is entitled to recovery of full minimum wage for all of the hours he worked. In order to take a tip credit, the law requires that the company provide “notice” of the laws surrounding the taking of a tip credit to their tipped employees. The plaintiff alleges that the company did not provide him or his fellow delivery drivers with proper notice of the tip credit. He seeks full minimum wage for all hours worked, plus additional damages.
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