PIZZA LAWSUIT: Delivery drivers sue Pizza Hut’s local franchisee

A delivery driver who delivered pizzas for Dayton-area Pizza Huts from 2013 to 2019 has filed a lawsuit against the franchisee that operates local Pizza Hut stores, claiming the company violated state and federal minimum-wage laws.

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Heath Jennings, whose hometown is not listed in the lawsuit but who lives in Montgomery County, says in the lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Dayton that his wages were so meager that when his auto and travel costs are factored in, he was making below the minimum wage. Attorneys for Jennings are seeking to expand the pool of plaintiffs by making it a class-action lawsuit.

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Similar lawsuits have been filed against other national pizza chains, and some law firms tout their success in such pizza-delivery class-action lawsuits on their web sites. The Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm that filed the Dayton lawsuit against a PIzza Hut franchisee has also filed a similar lawsuit against Papa John’s International in federal court in Kentucky earlier this year.

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The basis of the lawsuits, and of the most recent Dayton-based lawsuit, is this:

Pizza companies require delivery drivers to maintain and pay for a safe, legally operable and insured vehicle to use when delivering pizzas. But drivers must pay the costs of gas, parts, fluids, repair and maintenance, as well as insurance , depreciation and other expenses. When those costs are factored in, the amount that drivers are paid by their employer falls below federal minimum-wage standards and amount to a “kickback” to the pizza companies, the Dayton PIzza Hut lawsuit says.

A least two of those similar lawsuits resulted in six-figure and seven-figure settlements right here in southwest Ohio, according to court records.

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This news outlet reported in October 2018 that Dayton-area pizza delivery drivers for Domino’s Pizza won $850,000 in an unopposed settlement to a federal wage lawsuit similar to the most recent Pizza Hut franchisee lawsuit. In that case, about 411 drivers submitted claims in the class-action suit, and each class member was set to receive an average of about $2,000, although individual awards were to vary based on miles driven.

And earlier this year, in January, our news partners at WCPO-TV reported that some Cincinnati-area Domino's Pizza delivery drivers would share a $1 million settlement from a class-action lawsuit for unpaid wages and mileage.

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Dayton-area Pizza Hut restaurants are operated by Stow, Ohio-based Pizza Hut franchisee Hallrich Inc., which purchased the rights to operate Pizza Hut restaurants in the greater Dayton market from the Pizza Hut’s corporate parent in June 2017. Hallrich has been expanding Pizza Hut’s footprint across the Dayton area over the past year, opening new locations in Kettering, Beavercreek, and most recently, in a former Family Video store on Wayne Avenue just southeast of downtown Dayton.

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A spokeswoman for Hallrich Inc. declined comment late Wednesday, saying company officials are studying the lawsuit.

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