DoorDash Couriers Sue to Enforce Arbitration

On November 15, plaintiff Terrell Abernathy filed a petition for order compelling arbitration against defendant, DoorDash, Inc. (Terrell Abernathy, et al. v. DoorDash, Inc. 3:19-cv-07545). The case was filed in the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. The petitioners are represented by Custis Law, P.C., an employment law firm and Keller Lenkner LLC.  The case is unusual as it represents an attempt by workers to enforce arbitration against their employer, a reversal of usual practice.

The “[p]etitioners are 2,236 DoorDash couriers (“Dashers”) who are attempting to arbitrate individual claims against DoorDash for misclassifying them as independent contractors instead of employees. Petitioners contend that in misclassifying them, DoorDash has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act… and related California state and local laws.”

The petitioners claimed that DoorDash misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees, thus violating federal, state and local laws. DoorDash enforced its broad arbitration agreement to prevent independent contractors from filing claims in court and DoorDash failed to meet Employment Fee Schedule requirements.

Each petitioner signed an encompassing Mutual Arbitration Provision, requiring that the parties arbitrate any employment classification dispute with oversight from American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) and for both the petitioner and DoorDash to pay fees. AAA determined that each petitioner met their respective requirements and filing fees to proceed with arbitrations. AAA imposed a deadline of October 14 for DoorDash to pay its respective fees to proceed. DoorDash wanted a deadline extension, which was granted by AAA. Failing to pay the fees at the new deadline, October 28, DoorDash stated each Petitioner’s demand was “insufficient to launch arbitration under the DoorDash Independent Contractor Agreement, as well as AAA’s own rules.” AAA rejected this claim and set a final deadline for DoorDash to pay the fees by November 7. DoorDash refused to comply with this deadline and did not pay the fees. On November 8, AAA “administratively closed” the files because of DoorDash’s failure to meet requirements.

The Petitioners argued that DoorDash breached the agreement that required Petitioners to arbitrate the issue of whether the Petitioner is an independent contractor or an employee because it refused to comply with AAA’s filing fees that it must pay under said agreement for AAA to proceed with the arbitration. Petitioners are stuck because their arbitration cannot commence until DoorDash pays its fees, however, their arbitration agreements prevent them from bringing their claims to court. DoorDash has refused the arbitration.

Petitioners have sought that the court “enter[s] an Order requiring that DoorDash arbitrate each Petitioner’s claims under the Mutual Arbitration Provision, including paying the arbitration fees and costs AAA determines are necessary to empanel arbitrators and proceed with arbitrations.”