Three plaintiffs from California, Illinois, and Massachusetts have filed a worker misclassification lawsuit against DoorDash, claiming the company has illegally labeled them as independent contractors. In addition to a veritable laundry list of alleged labor code violations, the complaint also goes into detailed reasons for why employees are covered by legal protections and independent contractors are not, as well as the economic pressures on workers exerted by willful misclassification schemes.
Background and Allegations
DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service that receives orders through a mobile phone “app”. The company uses more than 300,000 drivers (which they label as “Dashers”) to deliver food orders from various restaurants to consumers. Orders are assigned to Dashers via a separate app.
When a Dasher fulfills an order, he or she must drive their own personal vehicle to the assigned restaurant, pick up the food order (using a proprietary company credit card, known as the “Red Card”), deliver the order according to instructions, and notify Door Dash at every step of the process. Dashers who fail to follow these exacting procedures risk losing their jobs.
Dashers are allegedly evaluated based on four “metrics,” or criteria:
- percentage of orders fulfilled on time
- customer ratings
- percentage of orders successfully delivered
- percentage of orders the Dasher accepts
These metrics are used in a punitive manner and affect every aspect of the Dasher’s job, according to the lawsuit. The complaint notes that a Dasher can be “deactivated” if their average rating is 4.2 stars (out of 5) or lower. A completion rate of under 70 percent can also be grounds for deactivation.
Dashers are penalized when deliveries are late, regardless of traffic conditions or other circumstances that may be beyond their control. Furthermore, while they technically are not required to accept every assignment, drivers who accept only high-paying, short-distance orders can also be penalized.
The most serious allegation of this employee misclassification complaint is that prior to August 2019, the company was withholding gratuities from Dashers.
Employee Misclassification: Why it Matters
The primary reason independent contractors have been exempted from most legal labor protections is that companies recognized that such individuals typically have specialized skills that would demand higher pay. Therefore, lawmakers believed they did not require the same protections as less-skilled employees.
Independent contractors perform duties that are outside the client’s usual course of business. While they do not enjoy the same protections as employees, they are free to carry out their duties in a manner of their own choosing and according to their own schedules, without employer control. They are also free to pick and choose their assignments and set their own rates.
The present complaint claims that Dashers, who are key to DoorDash’s main business (food delivery), are subject to the same controls and restrictions as employees. Nonetheless are expected to pay their own expenses (fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.), receive no benefits (such as medical and workers comp), while generally making less than minimum wage after expenses.
In addition to these allegations, plaintiffs in this class action accuse DoorDash of failing to provide accurate, itemized wage statements nor legally-mandated, duty-free rest and meal breaks.
The DoorDash Worker Misclassification Class Action Lawsuit is Case 3:20-cv-00666, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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