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Domino’s Wage Theft

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Not only is the pizza inedible, but Domino’s also steals money from its already low-wage workers.

The workers who assembled and delivered the pie clock their hours on a computer system, and those workers are then paid.

But for years, according to the lawsuit against the corporate franchiser that owns Domino’s Pizza, the computer system used by franchises across the state systematically undercounted hours worked by employees, shortchanging them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday, was the latest salvo in a campaign by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, against what he says is a pattern of corporations shortchanging low-wage workers.

Since 2011, Mr. Schneiderman has secured more than $26 million for almost 20,000 workers who were bilked of wages.

But unlike past cases, this one directly targets the corporate franchiser. If the state wins, Mr. Schneiderman hopes the case sets a precedent that makes it harder for corporations that run franchise businesses to avoid responsibility for the actions taken by the stores under their corporate umbrella.

“Wage theft is an epidemic causing harm to low-wage workers struggling to support their families every single day,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

The real importance here is moving the lawsuit away from the franchise to the corporation. This is absolutely critical in labor rights because it peels back one of the strategies used by corporations to shield itself from legal responsibility. Fast food chains like Domino’s routinely control costs by telling franchiers what to do, but then take no responsibility for what happens. If you want to change that, you have to fight for parent corporate legal repercussions for what happens at the franchise level. The same goes for subcontractors and temp agencies.

The surge in lawsuits, according to labor advocates, is a reflection of the changing nature of the American workplace.

Increasingly, corporations are using franchises, subcontractors and temp companies to fill jobs. One result is fierce competition to fill jobs with people who will work for the lowest possible wages. And, in turn, corporate franchisers can insulate themselves from charges of wage violations by creating a degree of separation between the corporation and the employees.

All of this needs to be a major front in the war on worker exploitation.

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  • Murc

    Schneiderman seems like a good egg.

    • Ideal replacement for Cuomo, on some glorious day

      • kped

        Hopefully no skeletons in his closet…New York had another pretty good AG in the past who looked to have a long future in electoral politics…

      • Chuchundra

        That’s probably his next step, but I worry about the Peter Principle.

        Spitzer was a great AG too.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Time for a new Peter Principle: A man rises to his level of competence and then is undone by his errant peter.

          • weirdnoise

            An unprincipled peter.

      • Murc

        Ideal replacement for Cuomo, on some glorious day

        Cuomo seems like he might be vulnerable to the proper sort of primary challenge; Zephyr Teachout spent what is basically chump change on her campaign (no judgment; she just wasn’t well-funded) and got 35% of the vote. That indicates vulnerability.

        … huh. She’s running for Congress, too. A quick map eyeball says that if Scott lives out on the east side of Albany, he might be able to vote for her.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Leaving aside the citizenship issues, alas no part of Albany County is in NY-19 (and we live in the city proper.)

          • Murc

            … I’d somehow thought you’d become naturalized at some point.

            I don’t know why I did, but I did.

            • kped

              If you’re going to live in the country long term, may as well get naturalized and then become a citizen. Get on it Lemieux!

              • Hogan

                Are you kidding? Have you seen that test?

              • Ahuitzotl

                accepting citizenship implies accepting some of the blame for American acts. No thanks.

          • Yeah, I would liked to have voted for her, but alas, Albany in not in her district.

  • postmodulator

    “Not only do we need a business model that depends on violating the law and taking money from the people who make our business possible and who can least afford its loss, but we need to make sure there are detailed records of us doing it.”

    I think this is why I never had the right mindset to do well in the corporate world.

    • kped

      “And also, bad pizza”

      You forgot that part of their business model!

      • yet_another_lawyer

        Another truly depressing aspect to this is that while Domino’s is definitely bad pizza in the context of New York and other major cities, it might legitimately be the best pizza in town in rural America. Having a good local pizzaria is by its nature hit or miss and chains don’t really do pizza that well, so it comes down to whether the locals prefer Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s. “Good enough pizza” is probably, sadly, more accurate…

        • kped

          I’m lucky living in a downtown major city (Toronto) that has a tonne of pizza options I guess. I can go authentic Italian, or decent chain (we have a good local chain, Pizaiolo, very very good for a chain restaurant).

          So glad that I never have to settle for “good enough”.

          • yet_another_lawyer

            Yeah– if you live in a town that people have heard of, then almost definitionally the above doesn’t apply. But something like half of America lives in villages/towns of fewer than 25,000 people (not sure what the numbers are in Canada). The big news from my hometown of roughly 10,000 souls is that there is now a Walgreens and it stays open until 10. Until 10! No national pizza chains yet, but perhaps someday.

            • Steve LaBonne

              Here in small-town Medina, OH, we now have a pizza place that makes honest to God NY style pizza (with pesto as an available topping- yum!) AND a bagel place that sells bagels imported from Brooklyn and baked at the shop- the only real bagels I’ve ever eaten outside NY or Montreal. I don’t know what I did to deserve such good fortune.

              • Ahuitzotl

                You are destined to kill* George Walker Bush IV and prevent him from achieving his disastrous Presidency, so Gaea is rewarding you beforehand (for obvious reasons).

                * by accident, it’s true, but hey dead is dead

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Amen. I grew up in the orbit of NYC, and going to get pizza meant dealing with either Italian-Americans or just… Italians. Then I moved to the heartland, where the RealMurkins live… and… eh. Not until enough outsiders (foreigners! swarthy! Papists!) moved in did the pizza get good.

          • lunaticllama

            I went to college in Maine and there was not good pizza anywhere in the state (even Portland at the time, although that might have changed now due to its rebirth as a foodie town). And don’t get me started on the bagels (northern NJ native here, which I contend has better pizza and bagels than NYC)…

        • EBT

          I’ve yet to find good pizza in the Bay and it is depressing.

          • ResumeMan

            Assuming you’re referring to SF Bay, if you live in the East Bay go to Lanesplitter’s. They have 3 pubs, one in Berkeley and two in Oakland. Good pubs, and really excellent pizza. I could eat there every day. AND they have a no-tip policy.

          • bernardy

            Assuming SF Bay, in the South Bay, try Vito’s Pizza in Sunnyvale.

        • Linnaeus

          I grew up in metro Detroit, and it has decent pizza of various varieties (the “typical” kind, Detroit-style, and even Chicago-style*), and no, I’m not talking about Domino’s or Little Caesars. Now I live in Seattle and I think the pizza here is okay, although I’ve never been to our fancier pizza places (Tribunali, Serious Pie, etc.) because they tend to be a bit too pricey for me.

          *Yes, I know some folks don’t like Chicago-style. I do, but I have no intent of starting a comment war here.

    • You’ll never make upper management with that kind of attitude!

    • pianomover

      You know who else kept detailed records don’t you?

  • What is it about the purveyors of cardboard pizza? From Herman Caine to the Papa John’s whateverhisname is guy, they’re all assholes.

    • postmodulator

      The Little Caesar’s guy is apparently okay?

    • Because the only way to make a buck in the world of franchise restaurants is sell cheap food as cheap as possible. That means cutting expenses to the bone, so the most successful executives in that business are going to be the ones with the least scruples about stiffing their employees, vendors and customers.

    • NonyNony

      They built businesses (or at least ran businesses) that are highly dependent on cheap labor, cheap ingredients and cheap rent. Because they have no faith in their product, so they assume people only buy it because it’s cheap.

      They’re disconnected from how their own customers think. That’s what led to the Papa John’s guy thinking that raising the price of his pizza by 15 cents a pie so that his employees could have health insurance was a disaster, while most Papa John’s customers would look at it and say there’s no real price difference between a $10.50 pie and a $10.65 cent pie.

      • But there is a real difference between Papa John’s and a pizza.

    • UncleEbeneezer

      Are there any fast food chains that don’t have deplorable CEO’s/practices? Serious question, I can’t think of any that aren’t or haven’t been problematic in labor practices or vocal support of wingnut cause (usually homophobia.)

      • TribalistMeathead

        In-N-Out Burger, if you’re willing to overlook what’s tantamount to a harmless bit of civil religion.

      • Linnaeus

        Dick’s here in Seattle isn’t too bad – they compensate their employees way better than the other fast food chains do.

    • AMK

      In my experience, the people who own fast food franchises are scum drawn to the business precisely because it lets them own the lesser people. If you have a few McDonald’s in an area, you can satisfy your inner plantation master by strutting around as a local bigshot with near-dictatorial control over scores of poor blacks and browns. It’s the Donald Sterling philosophy on a much smaller scale.

  • Denverite

    My spouse’s (and children’s) biggest flaw is that she likes Domino pizza. She’ll try to time it so that they have it when I’m not going to be around for dinner, but sometimes, when she’s just too tired to make something after work and I’m going to be too late to bring home something edible, she’ll have it delivered.

    On those days, she lets me know in advance so I’ll know to pick up some carnitas or fish tacos for myself on the way home.

    • Couldn’t she order some other, less atrocious, pizza?

      • Denverite

        You’d think. And there are even other more-edible delivery options, not to mention actual good pizzas I could pick up if she’d wait until 8:00 or whenever I’m home. But no, it’s Domino’s thin crust pepperoni for her and a regular crust cheese for the kids.

        We all have our flaws, I guess. I love Jack-in-the-Box tacos.

        • Thirtyish

          And I love Pizza Hut. It aggravates me that there are so few of them here on the East Coast–Domino’s reigns supreme here, and I can’t bring myself to expend the money or the calories on it.

          • kped

            Pizza Hut is my least favourite. They can’t even make it look edible on the advertising! And hot dogs in the crust…hot dogs in the crust…

          • Brett

            That sucks. Pizza Hut is glorious, especially a pan pepperoni pizza with extra cheese that you’ve had in the fridge for a couple of hours. Easily the most delicious pizza eaten cold.

    • kped

      Probably a childhood thing, some tastes you just crave. For me, one that I miss is KFC’s old fries. The ones that kind of tasted like the cardboard it came in, and were soggy and limp? I loved those! But I know how awful they were (smother them in salt and KFC gravy and it’s even better!)

      So I can sympathize with your wife I think.

      • Denverite

        I think it’s a college/grad school thing. She’d splurge and have Domino’s delivered when she got tired of fixing pasta and red sauce for herself. The funny thing is that she makes a really tasty red sauce!

        • kped

          I’d love to see the geographic divide between “Red Sauce/Tomato Sauce/Marinara”. I’m pretty sure it’s all the same thing, but I’m a “tomato sauce” person, so seeing “red sauce” always briefly confuses me!

          • Thirtyish

            My understanding is and always has been that marinara is distinct from regular red/tomato pizza sauce. Marinara is sweeter, and perfect for dipping bread sticks into.

            • I too would like clarification on this.

              My understanding is that tomato sauce is plain, maybe a little salt (edit: like a base for marinara or whatever).

              I’ve been buying “spaghetti sauce” for years, and now suddenly there are these gourmet brands (sometimes on sale) that only have “marinara sauce”. Is this the same thing?

              • Denverite

                I’ve been buying “spaghetti sauce” for years

                Don’t do this. Saute a medium-sized onion in olive oil, add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and dry oregano, pour in a big can of crushed red tomato, bring to a boil while stirring, and voila. Homemade red sauce that is cheaper, healthier and tastier than anything you can by in a jar.

                • I buy frozen meatballs too.

                • Linnaeus

                  I add grated carrot and finish it with some butter.

                • Denverite

                  I buy frozen meatballs too.

                  Oh, that you’d be stupid not to.

                • kped

                  It’s also dirt easy to make your own better homemade meatballs people! The frozen stuff isn’t as good!

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Yup. Get decent tomatoes and you can make excellent red sauce with minimal effort in less time than it takes to boil pasta. (The best option is to get good whole Italian tomatoes and crush them in a bowl with your hands.)

                • muddy

                  I am too lazy to make meatballs, so I put the mixture in a baking pan, and draw a knife through it like cutting brownies. Wiggle the knife sideways or use a spatula to make the cuts wider. Bake it until done, the fat comes into the cuts and the meat shrinks, giving meat cubes instead of balls.

                  If you stir them into the sauce the corners break off and you can hardly tell they weren’t round.

              • kped

                My tomato sauce is onion and garlic fried in olive oil, then the tomatoes, then any seasoning (salt, pepper, basil, etc).

                I’ve never bought the store stuff, it’s just so easy to make. Buy the good canned tomatoes. And no, it doesn’t need to cook for 15 hours to be good! I make a good batch in about 30 minutes. It can be done.

                *edit: Google tells me that my tomato sauce is a marinara. Adding the herbs makes it so. OK. I’ll keep calling it tomato sauce.

              • I realize I’m a food snob but those pasta sauces in a jar are absolutely loaded with sugar. Take a look at the ingredients list sometime.

                If they were any sweeter you could pour them over pancakes.

                It’s really not hard to make a quick red sauce.

                • kped

                  A good way to get natural sweetness in there is to fry the onions in butter instead of olive oil. Then add the garlic, then everything else (and add some olive oil after you’ve put the tomatoes in, don’t want to leave it completely out).

                • muddy

                  My mother used to put a spoon of sugar into tomato sauce to cut the acidity. That’s nothing compared to the amounts they put in the jars though!

              • lunaticllama

                In northern NJ (or maybe just on the Italian side of my family), the three have different meanings:

                Marinara is a sweeter dipping sauce per Thirtyish above.

                Tomato sauce or just sauce is your basic tomato sauce for pasta, lasagna, Parmesan, etc.

                Red sauce gets used to describe restaurants, like a “red sauce italian place.”

                And you should always make your own tomato sauce at home, it is the simplest thing per Denverite’s comment below. My mom (not Italian) was told when my parents were engaged by my father’s family (Italian) that under no circumstances were we to ever eat prepared tomato sauce, so I have inherited a pretty strong belief on this issue.

                • kped

                  I’m from a Portuguese family, but we grew up the same way, must be a Mediterranean European thing. Under no circumstances were we to ever use the store bought stuff (hell, my mom used her own tomatoes from her giant garden for sauce). if it’s easy enough to do at home, don’t buy it.

                  Also goes for salad dressing. Olive Oil + vinegar of your choice is so basic and great, it makes nearly every base for a vinaigrette. The rest is just adding stuff into it (mustard, capers, etc). My go to is a simple olive oil and red wine, salt, pepper. Sometimes garlic powder. So damn simple, but so good every time.

                • postmodulator

                  My mom (not Italian) was told when my parents were engaged by my father’s family (Italian) that under no circumstances were we to ever eat prepared tomato sauce, so I have inherited a pretty strong belief on this issue.

                  My (Italian) immigrant grandparents were never snobs about that stuff; one of the last times my grandmother was well enough to go out to eat, it was at Olive Garden.

                  Her husband did grow his own tomatoes, but in Northeast Ohio old Italian men just do that so they’ll have something to complain about. Oh, lost them to an early frost? Oh, lost them to a late frost? Oh, lost them to one of those summers where the sun doesn’t come out in June? Pretty sure in forty-plus years no one ever ate a tomato off his vines.

                • Linnaeus

                  Her husband did grow his own tomatoes, but in Northeast Ohio old Italian men just do that so they’ll have something to complain about.

                  That gave me a chuckle, because that’s something that both old Italian and old Polish men do in southeast Michigan, too, no matter how the tomatoes come out (Dad’s had a pretty good harvest the past several years).

          • Denverite

            This may be totally off base, but I always think of “tomato sauce” as the thin, canned stuff without any flavor, “marinara” as a particular type of red sauce (chunkier and sweeter), and “red sauce” as the catch-all term for any tomato-based European-style sauce.

          • Linnaeus

            If it was red, we called it “spaghetti sauce”. “Tomato sauce” we regarded as the base of red sauce, but not the red sauce itself. I don’t think I heard the word “marinara” until well into adolescence at the earliest.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      Domino’s thin crust is excellent, IMHO. I don’t know of any pizza places (locally-owned or chains) on the east side of Denver that produce a comparable cracker-thin crust. (Pizza Alley on the west side does it, but they don’t deliver past the river, IIRC.)

      • Denverite

        Depends on your definition of “east side,” but Pizza Locale on Broadway (east side though!) does a very good Italian-style thin crust pizza. Other than that, I can’t think of any. I like Anthony’s (all over, but we go to the one by DU), and everyone except me loves Basil Docs (either Wash Park or on Holly and Florida — but I always get heartburn from their pizza), but neither are thin crust.

  • howard

    while improved law enforcement will help here, the very best solution is the kind of high-octane economy we saw in the mid-’60s and the late ’90s when demand exceeds labor supply.

  • Boots Day

    Why is this simply a civil lawsuit, without criminal charges being attached? These franchisees are stealing from their employees. Shouldn’t someone be going to jail?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Also, how isn’t this just under-the-radar, low-grade, double secret slavery? Making people work for free, whether it’s Food Lion or Wal-Mart telling people to go punch out and then get back to restocking cans in Aisle 3, or this crap, I can’t see why there isn’t more public outrage about this kind of thing.

      Doubling my irk is that I just know that the kind of dicks who pull these stunts then write checks to certain think tanks and GOP candidates who lecture us all about grit and hard work and character and values. (Alas, Wm. Bennett popped up in the news a few weeks ago. They never go aweay, do they?)

      • AttorneyAtPaw

        I’d chalk it up to the old “you’ll wind up working at a gas station” trope that was so popular among my parents’ generation (I’m 34). Heard it from my parents more than a few times — and they were quite moderate, as suburban Republicans go. The mindset really seems to be that working a less-prestigious job is some kind of punishment for not becoming an attorney or stockbroker or CEO (rendering these employees persons under correctional control and therefore without any right to complain).

        Never mind that the same society so keen to revile people who work such jobs has chosen an economic path that creates almost nothing but such jobs. Never mind that even in a hypothetical world where everyone attained a Master’s or Ph.D., it wouldn’t be possible to place everyone in a prestige position. Mother Maggie and Saint Ronnie told us There’s No Such Thing As Society; ergo, it follows that There’s No Such Thing As A Structural Reality or Problem. No no no, the proles are just lazy fuck-ups.

        We haven’t really discussed economic policy in a while, and I can’t help but wonder whether my parents have moderated a bit… seeing that their bar-admitted son is still delivering for Domino’s to augment his income (thanks to the temp-agency model now applicable to most who graduated from a non-Top 30 school).

    • ghkozen

      I was about to ask the same question. Why is stealing out of someone’s paycheck treated differently than stealing from someone’s wallet? Figure out who knew, charge them all with conspiracy, and throw the book at every single MBA-type who was aware in both the parent and the franchisee.

      • EBT

        In America the people with the power are above the law.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      Well, among other reasons, you need to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, while you only need to prove a civil case by a preponderance of the evidence.

      • postmodulator

        Sure, but as I noted above, they kept meticulous records. It doesn’t seem impossible.

        • AttorneyAtPaw

          Not familiar with applicable New York statute(s), but perhaps there’s a reckless or intentional requirement in play. If this was a software issue, as the article seems to suggest, then it’s at least possible to conceive of scenarios in which that scienter requirement would not be satisfied. (Though, as with speculation generally, it’s certainly possible to conceive plenty of contrary scenarios).

  • Sebastian_h

    I don’t understand how domino’s ever out competed Pizza Hut. Did they get hard into delivery earlier or something?

    • TribalistMeathead

      I’m almost positive they did, and I’m almost positive Domino’s pioneered the “30 minutes or it’s free” delivery guarantee.

      I also don’t think Pizza Hut ever intended to compete with Domino’s – 30 years ago, most (if not all) of Pizza Hut’s locations were dine-in locations, and Domino’s locations are still carry-out or delivery only. Pizza Hut doesn’t even compete with either Domino’s or Papa John’s on price today.

      • Murc

        I also don’t think Pizza Hut ever intended to compete with Domino’s – 30 years ago, most (if not all) of Pizza Hut’s locations were dine-in locations,

        Ever been into one of those these days? It’s a little bit sad. I mean, a lot of them are doing plenty okay business, but… not in their dining rooms. Those poor, abandoned salad bars.

        • postmodulator

          I’m old enough to remember Pizza Hut being a fancy treat on special occasions. This was also in pretty small towns, though.

        • TribalistMeathead

          Last time I was in one was last Labor Day weekend, in Dyersville, IA, and the only reason I was there was because apparently very few people who visit the Field of Dreams and attend one of the old-time baseball reenactments are interested in eating dinner afterwards, because it was one of two or three restaurants that were still open at that hour.

      • osceola

        The “30 mins. or it’s free” was another form of wage theft. Domino’s didn’t give away the pizza. They docked it out of the driver’s pay. A college friend delivered for them and quit on the third night over this.

        And they stopped the 30-minute deal because so many of their drivers were causing fatal auto accidents trying not to get their pay docked for a late delivery.

    • Randy

      I think that’s what it was. Pizza Hut concentrated on the “dine” -in restaurants.

      For many years, Domino’s charged no start-up fee for its franchises. If you qualified, they found you a location and set you up without asking for cash up front. They kept a tight control over what their franchisees did or said: franchisees were not allowed to distance themselves from the CEO’s rabid anti-choice politics.

      • AttorneyAtPaw

        Man, if Tom Monaghan saw my small-franchise store, he’d shit a brick. One gay guy (me), three lesbians, and a trans man… and this in a fifth-ring suburb in the Midwest.

  • janitor_of_lunacy

    So where I live (Noweheresville Maryland), the mom&pop pizza places are even worse than the chains. I’m pretty excited that Boston’s opened a location, since I’ve had their pizza a couple of times on travel, and found it pretty good. Plus they have things that my wife (who can’t eat cow cheese) would probably like.

    • Murc

      So where I live (Noweheresville Maryland), the mom&pop pizza places are even worse than the chains.

      People forget that the rise of chain restaurants is because local reasonably-priced food tended to be deeply scattershot and shitty. I try and keep that in mind whenever anyone bitches about how there’s never anyplace to eat but an Applebees or a place that’s “too expensive;” yeah, buddy, it’s because all those places were crap and people actually did, in fact, prefer Applebees.

      • NonyNony

        This is why when an Applebees expands into areas with good restaurants, it tends to go belly up within 3-5 years.

        There are cities I have visited for decades where the chains are literally the only decent food in town. Not because there used to be good restaurants in town and the chains drove them off, but because the restaurants in town were all garbage and people were truly happy to finally get something as good as a Chili’s or an Olive Garden to eat at.

      • If I’m going to spend $17 for a boil-in-a-bag meal I’d just as soon get a frozen dinner and save my money.

      • Brett

        If only there were more chain Chinese restaurants to get that kind of effect – there’s some good Chinese restaurants in the Salt Lake Valley, but so, so many bad ones. I mean, there’s Panda Express and Pei Wei, but Panda’s the Chinese food equivalent of McDonald’s.

  • pianomover

    Considering Monaghans extreme Catholicism doesn’t the choice of Domino’s and the similarity to the Latin Dominos seem peculiar.

    • AttorneyAtPaw

      Especially considering that the chain’s first restaurant was originally a local operation in Michigan named Domi-Nick’s. Name change intentional, methinks.

      Adeste esures, we’ve got pepperoni…

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