A Domino’s franchisee in New York City has agreed to pay $1.28 million to 61 workers who charged the company with stealing wages, the New York Times reports.
The workers, who are all delivery people, will see awards ranging from $61,300 to $400, depending on how long they worked there. The lawsuit accused the company of withholding pay by making them pay for their own uniforms, do untipped work at the low tipped minimum wage, and go without a lunch break. While New York’s minimum wage is $8 an hour, the tipped minimum wage is just $5 an hour, but if tips don’t make up the difference, employers are supposed to fill the gap.
The settlement comes after three years of litigation. Carlos Rodriguez Herrera says he complained about improper payment to his manager in 2007 but was fired on the spot, so he took his complaint to the State Department of Labor. After little action for two years, he went to the Legal Aid Society, which represented the workers in winning the settlement. Karen Cacace, a lawyer with the organization, said of the settlement, “Hopefully it will inspire other delivery workers and low-wage workers to take action if they’re not being paid correctly, and hopefully it will make employers recognize that there can be a significant cost to violating wage laws.”
Twenty-four workers had also claimed they were fired for complaining about the wage practices in December, and after they protested to be reinstated, the New York State Attorney General ordered Domino’s to give them their jobs back.
“In any dispute people say things that may or may not be true, and that is the case here,” David Melton, the owner of the Domino’s franchise, said of the settlement. “We made some mistakes in our business.”
This is not the first time a Domino’s has been charged with violating labor laws. A franchise in Florida had to pay nearly $400,000 in back wages to 401 workers after being found guilty of violating labor laws. But the company is far from unique. Nearly 85 percent of fast food workers in New York City report being victims of wage theft, leading many to speak out. Workers in other industries suffer these abuses as well, from federal contract workers to cheerleaders to Walmart subcontractors to exotic dancers.
While the practices are illegal, it can be costly and time consuming for workers to bring complaints. And even if they go through the trouble and prove they were cheated out of pay, they may not see compensation: 83 percent of workers who won a wage theft claim in California never got their money. These problems have led some places, like Houston and Chicago, to strengthen their labor laws to make it easier to crack down on abuse.
The fast food industry’s practices and low wages have also sparked nationwide strikes calling for a higher minimum wage and the right to form a union, which would handle many of these wage disputes.