A former Schenectady pizza delivery man is one of two people now suing Pizza Hut, claiming a company practice of including a delivery fee on orders and keeping much of the proceeds illegally cuts into their tips.
The suit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Albany charges that the national pizza chain and a franchisee that operates in New York violate state labor law by keeping the fees for themselves.
One of the two plaintiffs in the case is William Lewis, of Schenectady. Lewis worked as a driver for the Union Street Pizza Hut from 2005 to 2012. The other plaintiff, Samantha Crawford, is from Syracuse. Attorneys for the pair are seeking to turn it into a class-action lawsuit to include all delivery drivers for the company.
The suit contends that Pizza Hut adds a mandatory “delivery fee” ranging from $2.50 to $2.75 to customers’ bills. But it also contends that customers see the fee and believe it is a gratuity.
“Neither the Pizza Hut website nor mobile application explain to the customer the purpose of the delivery fee ... that Defendants are retaining some or all of the fee, or that the delivery fee does not constitute the driver’s tip,” the suit reads.
Both Lewis and Crawford heard “on numerous occasions” from customers that they believed the delivery fee was a gratuity, the suit reads. They also infrequently received tips from customers, even though they are workers who customarily would receive tips. They were paid the statutory minimum wage.
The violation of New York labor law, the suit contends, is that the fees are, in fact, gratuities and have been illegally taken by the company.
Named as defendants are Pizza Hut of America and the franchisee V&J National Enterprises, which once owned the Union Street location. Efforts to reach representatives of both companies for comment for this story were unsuccessful.
Representing the drivers is New York attorney Douglas Lipsky. He declined to make the Schenectady driver Lewis available for an interview last week. But, he said, the company practice directly results in drivers not getting tips.
“The customers reasonably believe that these delivery fees are the driver’s gratuity are, in turn, not tipping the drivers,” he said.
The lawsuit is similar to others filed in recent years against other pizza chains nationwide.