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January 29th, 2014 ALEX TOMCHAK SCOTT | News Stories
 

Signed, Sealed, Delinquent?

A popular Portland delivery service faces allegations it underpays its couriers.

news2_4013ILLUSTRATION: WW Staff
If you’ve filled a prescription or bought a house in Portland in the last 10 years, there’s a decent chance a company called Senvoy was involved in the transaction.

The Portland company claims to be the Pacific Northwest’s largest independent delivery service, growing steadily since 1999 to 250 couriers—with services stretching as far as Salt Lake City.

Senvoy’s greatest strength is its competitive prices. Current and former drivers say, however, Senvoy has achieved those prices at their expense.

“The way they were increasing their market share was by not bothering to pay minimum wage or overtime,” says Ann Berryhill Witte, a Portland lawyer who has represented nine former Senvoy couriers who sued the company between 2007 and 2013.

Last year, former Senvoy courier Frank Sobolewski alleged in a complaint filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that he was paid an average of $1.38 an hour working full-time for the company. BOLI rejected the complaint, finding Sobolewski was an independent contractor.

Jeff Gist, who delivered prescriptions for Senvoy for 2½ years, filed a class-action lawsuit in November against Senvoy and two related companies, ZoAn Management and Driver Resources. The lawsuit seeks to make Senvoy pay as much as $5 million to as many as 500 current and former delivery drivers.

Gist says he quit Senvoy in April after the 2010 Chevrolet Aveo he used for deliveries broke down. He says he worked full-time for Senvoy, but only took home an average of about $15,000 per year after expenses mandated by the company, such as gas and insurance.

He says Senvoy also makes it difficult for its couriers by requiring them to work exclusively for the company and to wear uniforms, which is more in line with treating them as employees.

Gist says Senvoy owes him about $70,000, nearly twice his total take-home pay from making deliveries for the company. That includes unpaid overtime, unpaid commissions, and expenses that shouldn’t have been deducted.

“[The $70,000] is anything and everything I could think of,” he says.

Senvoy president Jerry Brazie declined to speak to WW, as did his the company’s attorney, Chip Paternoster. “I would love to talk about it, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Paternoster says.

Paternoster declined to say whether Senvoy requires drivers to work for the company exclusively.

Senvoy has responded in court documents that its couriers are independent contractors, rather than employees. Oregon law requires companies to pay at least minimum wage to employees. It requires no such wage for contractors.

In court documents, the company says Gist and other couriers understood the deal when they chose to work for Senvoy.

“The contracts,” the legal filing says in several places, “speak for themselves.” 

 
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