Cook County Record

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Drivers deliver class action saying GrubHub needs to treat them as employees, not contractors

By Scott Holland | Jul 11, 2016

A group of app-dispatched food delivery drivers have served Chicago-based GrubHub with a class action, saying the company has wrongly classified them as contractors, when they should qualify as employees under the law. 

Six people who have worked for GrubHub took aim June 28 in Chicago federal court against the web-based food delivery coordinator, arguing their classification as independent contractors violated state and federal labor and wage laws. 

Named plaintiffs included Thomas Souran and Kelly Reardon, of Chicago; Roy Wilkie, of Portland, Ore.; Carmen Gonzalez, of Glenolden, Pa.; Louis Ramzy, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Adam Smith, of Bridgeport, Conn. Collectively, the plaintiffs worked as GrubHub drivers from November 2014 to the present, primarily in 2015. All the drivers alleged violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, while individual drivers also alleged violation of their home state minimum wage and hour laws. 

A separate class action alleging employee misclassification is pending in federal court in California; anyone covered in that complaint would be excluded from the class in the Chicago action. GrubHub drivers from any state other than California would be allowed to opt in to the Chicago complaint, the lawsuit said. 

In their lawsuit, the Chicago plaintiffs contended “GrubHub directs drivers’ work in detail, instructing drivers where to report for their shifts, how to dress and where to go to pick up or await deliveries. Drivers are required to follow requirements imposed on them by GrubHub regarding handling of the food and timeliness of the deliveries. GrubHub retains the right to terminate the drivers at will.” 

Further, “the driver’s services are fully integrated into GrubHub’s business, and without the drivers, GrubHub’s business would not exist.” 

According to the complaint, GrubHub drivers work on scheduled shifts in blocks of time. They must stay within an assigned area and remain ready to take assignments. Drivers earn a flat fee for each delivery plus tips. The complaint acknowledged that, “GrubHub at times pays minimum wages.” 

The drivers said they typically get two to four jobs per hour, and that such assignments can take from 30 to 90 minutes. Because they can be fired for failing to accept a percentage of assignments, drivers “must accept as many” as possible. And because they must stay close enough to their car to anticipate new assignments and tight deadlines, “drivers are working throughout their entire shifts and this time is all compensable under federal and state wage standards.” 

Each driver argued they were entitled to overtime pay based on an amount of hours worked per week or day. They also contended GrubHub’s policy of making drivers bear the expense of fuel, car maintenance and cellphone data further drops weekly compensation below established wage minimums. 

In addition to class certification and a finding that GrubHub violated the federal and state laws, the plaintiffs also asked the court to award compensatory damages, including back pay, plus liquidated damages and any statutory and regulatory damages, legal fees and injunctive relief forcing GrubHub to comply with relevant wage laws. 

Representing the named plaintiffs, and the putative class of additional plaintiffs were attorneys James B. Zouras and Ryan Stephan, of Stephan Zouras, of Chicago; and Shannon Liss-Riordan and Thomas Fowler, of Lichten & Liss-Riordan, of Boston, as well as Matthew D. Carlson, of the Lichten firm’s San Francisco office.

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