Instacart shopper in produce aisle
An Instacart shopper in the produce aisle of a supermarket. Courtesy of the company

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office has petitioned an appellate court to reinstate its injunction against grocery delivery company Instacart, which the city alleged misclassified its employees as independent contractors, and now places Instacart‘s workforce at greater risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A San Diego judge ruled in favor of the city last month in its pursuit of an injunction against the company, which the City Attorney’s Office alleged was evading providing its “shoppers” with worker protections like minimum wage and overtime pay by classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees.

However, the injunction was soon stayed when Instacart filed a notice of appeal, which the city alleges was done “erroneously,” claiming the court lacked jurisdiction to do so, according to court documents filed by the City Attorney’s Office Thursday.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, the City Attorney’s Office alleges Instacart will bring “substantial harm” to its workforce by continued misclassification, as well as potential COVID-19 exposure, particularly with food delivery in such high demand.

The City Attorney’s Office alleges Instacart “shoppers” are not being provided with masks and gloves, and lack paid sick time, workers compensation and unemployment benefits due to being classified as independent contractors.

“At a time when delivery services are needed more than ever, Instacart must earn the public’s trust by protecting its employees and the customers whose food they touch,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said.

“Health and safety is everyone’s first priority and Instacart needs to step up, act responsibly and follow the law.”

The city says Instacart employs 130,000 “shoppers” nationwide, and announced plans earlier this week to hire 300,000 additional “shoppers” in order to meet demands brought on by COVID-19.

There was no immediate response to a telephone call to an Instacart representative seeking comment to the City Attorney’s Office’s petition.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.