Papa John's sued for failure to pay minimum wages
August 26, 2009
Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP in Kansas City, Mo. and Weinhaus & Potashnick in St. Louis, Mo. recently filed lawsuits in Missouri and Colorado against Papa Johnís International, Inc. and one of the largest Papa Johnís franchises. Papa Johnís International, Inc. operates nearly 600 corporate Papa Johnís stores in the United States. The franchisee (PJCOMN Acquisition Corp. and Essential Pizza, Inc.) operates more than 80 Papa Johnís franchise stores in Colorado and Minnesota.

The plaintiffs allege that Papa Johnís International, Inc. and the franchisee are violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Colorado Minimum Wage of Workers Act, and Missouriís wage and hour laws by failing to adequately reimburse drivers for automobile costs and other job-related expenses, causing them to earn less than minimum wage.

Pizza companies require their delivery drivers to maintain operable, safe and legally-compliant vehicles. To do so, the drivers must purchase their own gasoline, vehicle parts, fluids, repairs, maintenance services and insurance. Meanwhile, their vehicles depreciate rapidly while driving on the job. Some employees commonly drive more than 100 miles per shift. AAA Auto Club calculates ("Behind the Numbers," AAA communication, 2009 edition) the average 2009 annual cost of operating a vehicle at $8,095.00 for 15,000 miles. This equates to a per mile cost of $0.54.

The pizza delivery industry maintains a practice of paying its drivers a fixed amount per delivery, regardless of whether a delivery is one block from the restaurant or eight miles away in the next town. Reimbursement rates vary amongst chains from about $0.75 to $1.25 per delivery. However, there appears to be no correlation between the size of the delivery area or average delivery mileage and the amount of delivery reimbursement. This ďone-size-fits-allĒ approach, rather than reimbursing drivers based on their actual mileage or their actual automobile expenses incurred, fails to adequately compensate drivers for the true and full cost of using their own vehicles to deliver their employerís pizzas.

The lawsuits further allege Papa Johnís and the franchisee have failed to reimburse their delivery drivers for cell phone charges incurred for job-related purposes, uniform item purchases including pants and shoes, dry cleaning and laundering services, maps, flashlights and batteries. These are all expenses incurred by drivers for the primary benefit of Papa Johnís and the franchisee.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and certain state laws, wages are calculated by subtracting unreimbursed job expenses from hourly wages. The result of the Defendantsí failure to reimburse drivers for automobile costs and other job related expenses is payment of wages below the federal and state minimums.

The Fair Labor Standards Act provides for recovery of unpaid minimum wages, an equal amount for liquidated damages, attorneyís fees and litigation costs. Back wages can be sought over either a two- or three-year period from the date the employee joins the case, depending on whether the violation is deemed willful. Both present employees and former employees of Papa Johnís, PJCOMN and Essential Pizza may participate.

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Response to articletarheel85602011-11-06 09:42:39