DoorDash is facing a new lawsuit regarding its tipping practices. This time, it’s coming from Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. In the suit, Racine accuses DoorDash of engaging in deceptive tipping practices while also failing to provide any relief to workers whose tips were taken.
Racine’s office first opened an investigation into DoorDash’s practices in March 2019. In D.C., the suit alleges DoorDash customers paid millions of dollars in tips that the company used to offset the costs of its payments to workers over the span of two years. Racine’s office is seeking to make DoorDash pay damages and restitution.
“We strongly disagree with and are disappointed by the action taken today,” a DoorDash spokesperson told TechCrunch in an email. “Transparency is of paramount importance, which is why we publicly disclosed how our previous pay model worked in communications specifically created for Dashers, consumers, and the general public starting in 2017. We’ve also worked with an independent third party to verify that we have always paid 100% of tips to Dashers. We believe the assertions made in the complaint are without merit and we look forward to responding to them through the legal process.”
The suit focuses on how DoorDash had been offsetting the amount it pays its delivery drivers with customer tips. DoorDash’s payment structure as follows: $1 plus customer tip plus pay boost, which varies based on the complexity of order, distance to restaurants and other factors. It’s only when a customer doesn’t tip at all, which DoorDash told Fast Company happens about 15 percent of the time, that DoorDash is on the hook to pay the entire guaranteed amount.
In July, DoorDash announced it would change its tipping model, about a month after it doubled down on that same model. In August, DoorDash revealed how its new model would work but it later made clear that it would not be paying back any workers for lost wages.
“There’s no ‘back pay’ at issue here because every cent of every tip on DoorDash has always gone and will always go to Dashers,” a DoorDash spokesperson previously told TechCrunch via email in response to a question about whether or not DoorDash would back pay its delivery workers.
When Instacart changed its tipping practices earlier this year, it retroactively compensated shoppers when tips were included in the payment minimums. DoorDash, however, does not see the need for back pay. DoorDash fully implemented its new policy in September.
Meanwhile, DoorDash is funding a ballot initiative alongside Uber and Lyft to try to ensure it doesn’t have to treat its workers as W-2 employees.
The ballot measure looks to implement an earnings guarantee of at least 120% of minimum wage while on the job, 30 cents per mile for expenses, a healthcare stipend, occupational accident insurance for on-the-job injuries, protection against discrimination and sexual harassment and automobile accident and liability insurance.
This initiative is a direct response to the legalization of AB-5, the gig worker bill that will make it harder for the likes of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy companies to classify their workers as 1099 independent contractors.
I’ve reached out to DoorDash and will update this story if I hear back.