A federal judge has cleared the way for 20,000-plus pizza delivery drivers for NPC International Inc., to join a class-action suit alleging minimum wage violations against Pizza Hut’s largest franchisee.
The lawsuit claims Overland Park, Kan.-based NPC violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws by failing to reimburse delivery drivers adequately for vehicle expenses, causing their wages to fall below the federal and state minimum wages.
NPC issued a statement Tuesday, saying: “We believe this litigation is lawyer-driven and will continue to vigorously defend our position. We value our delivery drivers and believe we reimburse them fairly. We look forward to having the opportunity to prove this once the court evaluates the merits of this case.”
Federal Judge John W. Lungstrum of the Kansas District ruled that “plaintiffs have made substantial allegations and submitted evidence that the putative class members — defendant’s delivery drivers — were together the victims of a single policy that resulted in their failure to receive the federal minimum wage.”
Attorney Rick Paul of Stueve Siegel Hanson, LLP, which together with the firm of Weinhaus & Potashnick represents the plaintiffs, said, “The mileage reimbursements paid by NPC and other pizza companies to pizza delivery drivers are shockingly low.”
Paul said NPC pays its corporate managers and executives the Internal Revenue Service standard mileage rate of 51 cents per mile in 2011, but it does not offer that rate to its delivery drivers.
The court’s certification order includes drivers employed by NPC’s 1,135 Pizza Hut units over the past three years, which plaintiffs’ lawyers said could number more than 20,000 delivery workers.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the class action was sought under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and liquidated damages.
Stueve Siegel of Kansas City, Mo., and Weinhaus of St. Louis, Mo., also represent drivers in other similar Pizza Hut and Papa John’s cases.
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].