Dallas Paratransit Drivers File Suit, Alleging Labor Violations

Yellow cabs parked behind Irving Holdings headquarters in Dallas.
Yellow cabs parked behind Irving Holdings headquarters in Dallas. Lucas Manfield
Two drivers for Irving Holdings, the Dallas transportation company that owns Yellow Cab, have filed suit, alleging that they worked unpaid overtime and sometimes earned less than minimum wage.

Didyme Kalenga and Arnold Bankete, the two employees named in the lawsuit, both drove company-owned paratransit vans that served the elderly and disabled as part of Irving Holdings' contract with DART. They allege that weekly "stand fees" of up to $500 would be deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with little left over.

In one three-day period in July, Kalenga claims he earned less than $60 for nearly 40 hours of work.

Irving Holdings has denied the allegations in a legal filing.

The underlying cause of the violations, the lawsuit alleges, was Irving Holdings wrongly classifying its paratransit drivers as independent contractors, echoing allegations that have been made against ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The scheme allows companies to avoid paying benefits or overtime if their workers are not, in fact, employees, but are instead running their own businesses.

California passed a law banning the practice, and it goes into effect next year. But the federal labor board has issued a ruling defending Uber's use of independent contractors.

The scheme detailed in the lawsuit, however, is far more egregious than Uber's. Irving Holdings treated its paratransit drivers like full employees, sending them detailed daily itineraries each morning and fining drivers if they failed to make pickups on time.

Kalenga claims that his schedule would stretch from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., leaving him working nearly 70-hour weeks. He would then be paid in coupons whose value would be determined by the company at the end of each pay period.

When his bosses caught wind that Kalenga was meeting with attorneys to prepare a lawsuit, they retaliated by canceling his assigned trips, he claims.

"Our clients have courageously initiated this lawsuit to challenge the illegal labor practices of Irving Holdings including the company’s failure to comply with federal minimum wage and overtime laws,” Zachary Rubin, an attorney working on the case, said in a statement.

The attorneys are requesting that the case be classified as a "collective action," which would trigger notices being sent to all other paratransit drivers at Irving Holdings informing them of their ability to join the suit.

It's not the first time Irving Holdings' legal troubles have made the news. In 2016, three of its executives agreed to pay more than $1 million after employees filed a lawsuit accusing the company of defrauding the federal government. At the time, the company was contracted to provide transportation for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
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Lucas Manfield is an editorial fellow at the Observer. He's a former software developer and a recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
Contact: Lucas Manfield