Scared to Speak Up? That’s What They’re Counting On!

February 5, 2014  |  Employment Law, Overtime Violations

We applaud the recent justice-done-right for the pizza workers at the Domino’s Pizza franchisee, DPNY Inc., owner of four Domino’s in Manhattan. Citing significant overtime and minimum wage violations, two bicycle deliverymen sued DPNY, paving the way for dozens of other DPNY delivery workers to stand up and joined the lawsuit with them, according to a recent New York Times article about the case. In the end, DPNY agreed to pay $1.28 million for 61 workers to settle the claims. Depending on the length of time each delivery person involved worked for DPNY, the compensation will range from $61,300 to $400 per person.

Yet some of you might ask, was the risk of speaking up (A.K.A. blowing the whistle) worth the time and trouble – especially for those who were at the low end of the compensation range?

We think so. But let’s take a look at the facts and then you can decide for yourself.

Pizza delivery operations tend to work like this (in driving cities): Hire a man or women with their own car to deliver the pizzas, expecting them to foot the bill for gas and other significant car expenses that come with constant driving, starting and stopping. There can be days, like some Saturday nights, when those who work in pizza delivery can make enough money in tips to cover their expenses… but pizza delivery folks tend to rotate quickly because the odds are against you: The costs of driving your own car are just too high — and a Saturday night of tips can mean a Sunday morning with no gas and an engine that needs repair.

There may not be car expenses in cities like Manhattan where the delivery mode of choice is bicycles — but there is time. That is, there is the loss of time.

In the case of DPNY, here are two examples of how the delivery workers’ time was “forgotten:”

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  • Carlos Rodriquez Herra often worked 65 hours a week as a deliveryman for a Domino’s pizza shop on East 89th Street in Manhattan, yet he was paid for just 45 hours.
  • Anatole Yameogo once worked from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on a Saturday and yet his pay stub said he worked for only half that time, a mere five hours instead of ten. In fact, according to a recent New York Times article on the settlement, one manager even went so far as to tell Mr. Yameogo that he “will work more than 50 hours a week but we’ll pay you for 40.”


But that’s not all. The lawsuit also accused DPNY of violations like denying delivery workers of their legally required lunch break, failing to pay for their uniforms and paying a subminimum tip wage when the workers did work that is not tipped such as cleaning ovens or distributing promotional fliers.

Legal action began on the part of Mr. Rodriquez who first sought legal help after he was fired on the spot in 2007 after mentioning to his manager that he been improperly underpaid. At the time, Mr. Rodriquez had worked at Domino’s for four years. Mr. Rodriquez also remembers a manger saying, “If you don’t like it here, the door is open to go elsewhere.”

That, dear readers, is a threat. And it was apparently spoken with the outright audacity of a person who thinks they can do wrong without being punished.

The hours were forgotten — purposefully — because it likely helped the managers increase their bonuses, at the expense of the delivery workers who contribute just as much to making sure your pizza gets delivered on time.

Whether it’s pizza delivery, hotel staff, call center personnel, we have heard this story many times. But the sad fact is, it happens much more often than we hear it. Why?

Because it is hard to stand up. Before the other DPNY delivery workers joined the litigation, it was just two people against the Manhattan corporate franchise.

You may be wondering what the overall benefit of this settlement is. After all, it is likely that companies like Dominos see these lawsuits as “a cost of doing business.” But, as our country looks at the ethics of the minimum wage, this settlement becomes important indeed.

Helping low-wage workers receive better wages for their work — and making sure that their time is always legally accounted for — is a big task we have before us. Stories like this can and should inspire other delivery and low-wage workers to take action if they are being paid incorrectly. Whistleblowers who decide to stand up and fight are sometimes awarded incentive compensation by judges for taking lead, in addition to their back wages and other damages. Because, in business, nothing is certain. One day “a cost of doing business” might be too much — too much in settlements and too much in bad publicity — to bear.

Thanks to the DPNY settlement, pizza delivery companies are learning that big costs may follow potential violations of wage laws down the line. Conveniently, to avert the risk means doing the right thing.

If you think you may have been denied proper wages under the law, please contact us here or at 1.866.495.1229 to learn more. All calls to Baron & Budd are confidential.

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