San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin sued DoorDash, a food delivery service, on Tuesday over its alleged misclassification of its delivery drivers. The suit alleges that the workers, called Dashers, are misclassified as independent contractors, in violation of California law. Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission issued an order that gig workers are employees under California’s AB 5, which seeks to curb misclassification by restoring “protections to potentially several million workers who have been denied…basic workplace rights that all employees are entitled to under the law.”
Dashers, when hired, agree to a standard non-negotiable contract, which includes terms that define a Dasher as an independent contractor. The District Attorney stated that DoorDash controls many of the terms of employment. While a Dasher can decide when to log into the app and sign up for a shift, DoorDash controls delivery assignments and the company only gives Dashers a short amount of time to accept the request before it is sent to another Dasher to accept. Consumers cannot request a specific Dasher. DoorDash provides the pick-up and delivery route, informs Dashers where items should be delivered, and Dashers’ locations are tracked in real-time for estimated delivery times. DoorDash sets the prices and fees, thus controlling how much a Dasher can make.
The plaintiff claimed that Dashers are employees because DoorDash is unable to satisfy the three prongs of the “ABC” test. DoorDash cannot show that “(1) Dashers are free from DoorDash’s direction and control, (2) Dashers perform work outside of the usual course of DoorDash’s delivery business, and (3) Dashers are engaged in an independently established trade or occupation.”
California labor law, according to the complaint, states that “workers are presumed to be employees and it is the employer’s burden to justify classifying workers as independent contractors.” DA Boudin said the misclassification was an effort to reduce company costs without providing Dashers with their earned protections, rights, and benefits, including “their guaranteed rights to minimum labor standards, including minimum wage and overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, workers’ compensation coverage, paid sick leave,” among others. Dashers do not have their lawful workplace protections, which “harms the public good,” eliminates state tax revenue from DoorDash’s payroll, and can cause Dashers to rely upon the social safety net.
In addition to AB5 violations, the complaint also alleged that DoorDash violates California’s Unfair Competition Law because of this misclassification. DA Boudin has sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, award for damages and violations, a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per violation, an award for costs and fees, and other relief as determined by the court.