On July 18th, 2011, a Colorado federal judge issued an Order denying a motion to dismiss filed by Pizza Hut in a lawsuit brought by a group of Pizza Hut delivery drivers who are suing to recover unpaid wages. The drivers’ lawsuit alleges that Pizza Hut failed to pay them at least the federal minimum wage.
The Fair Labor Standards Act entitles most U.S. workers to earn at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. During the early years relevant to the Pizza Hut drivers’ lawsuit, the federal minimum wage was $6.55 per hour (though it has risen to $7.30 per hour since). Currently, the Missouri minimum wage is the same as federal law, but the Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 for most employees.
According to the drivers’, even though Pizza Hut paid them $7.50 per hour, they were effectively earning less than the minimum wage because they were not being fully reimbursed for their on-the-job travel expenses. For example, one of the drivers claims that he received $2.30+ per hour for travel expenses on top of his hourly wage rate, and thus earned a total of $9.80 per hour. However, because his real travel expenses per hour were closer to $4.20 per hour, he was effectively making around $5.60 per hour ($9.80 – $4.20), which was 95 cents per hour less than the minimum wage at the time. As described elsewhere on this blog, it is illegal for employers to require their employees to pay for business costs when doing so would effectively lower the employees’ wage rate below the minimum wage.
If you believe that your employer is improperly reimbursing you for your job-related expenses or making improper deductions from your wages, you should consult a St. Louis wage and hour attorney.