City attorney sues Instacart over worker protections

SAN DIEGO — San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott filed a lawsuit Friday against grocery delivery company Instacart, alleging the company misclassified employees as independent contractors in order to avoid providing certain workers’ protections, such as paying for workers compensation and unemployment insurance.

The suit alleges that Instacart — which allows customers to order groceries online and have them delivered to their homes by a “shopper” — illegally classified the shoppers as independent contractors, violating a 2018 California Supreme Court decision. The City Attorney’s Office said Instacart shoppers do not meet any of the criteria for independent contractors.

Though the company is based in the Bay Area, a City Attorney’s Office statement said Instacart “has a strong presence in the city and company of San Diego.”

Instacart denied violating state laws in a statement issued Friday regarding the litigation, which read, “We are in compliance with the applicable laws and will vigorously defend ourselves. We remain committed to working with the governor, legislators, labor advocates and the voters of California to advocate for a better solution for independent work that benefits all Californians.”

Elliott’s office alleges Instacart’s shoppers did not receive all the compensation to which they were entitled, including minimum wages, overtime, meal breaks, paid rest breaks and reimbursement for work expenses.

Instacart also allegedly used the independent contractor status to avoid paying workers compensation and unemployment insurance, along with all relevant federal and state taxes.

The City Attorney’s Office is seeking restitution for lost wages and an injunction requiring Instacart classify its shoppers as employees.

“Companies like Instacart cannot deprive their employees of the basic job protections guaranteed under state law by calling them independent contractors,” Elliott said. “We are seeking restitution for the workers who’ve been exploited in the past, and we are also demanding that Instacart start legally classifying its workers.”

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