Pizza delivery drivers at Papa John’s Restaurants were granted collective action certification in their lawsuit against Papa John’s International, Inc. The pizza delivery drivers allege that Papa John’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the wage and hour statutes of various states—Missouri, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and North Carolina—by applying an automobile expense reimbursement methodology that underestimated both the automobile expenses incurred by the delivery drivers and the number of miles they drove.
According to Papa John’s reimbursement methodology, delivery drivers receive a flat fee for each delivery made regardless of the distance traveled. Papa John’s also requires its delivery drivers to pay any “automobile expenses” they incur while making deliveries out-of-pocket. In addition, Papa John’s paid all of its delivery drivers an hourly wage “at or near the applicable federal or state minimum wage,” and a maximum delivery reimbursement at approximately $1.25 per delivery. The pizza delivery drivers assert that applying the average mileage per delivery to the maximum reimbursement rate results in a wage rate less than the required minimum, though the drivers do not know what the actual effective rate of pay is.
The delivery drivers claim that the members of the proposed class are similarly situated because Papa John’s reimbursed them according to similar, albeit not identical, policies. Though the reimbursement methodology varies across time and location, the Court stated that such a variety does not mean that the delivery drivers are not similarly situated. The decision of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri, filed on September 14, 2011, granted the pizza delivery drivers’ motion for collective action certification of a class for present and former delivery drivers employed by Papa John’s in the previous three years (the statute of limitations for willful violations under the FLSA).