Bay Area food startup Locale fined $140K for underaged drivers – SFGATE

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A Bay Area-based food delivery startup was fined nearly $140,000 late last month after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the company hired dozens of underaged drivers.  

Locale, a Los Gatos-based company known for delivering meals from popular Bay Area restaurants, was issued a fine of $139,398 for employing 78 teenagers who unlawfully delivered meals and groceries. Some of the employees were as young as 16.

“Employers who hire young workers must know and abide by federal laws that govern their employment,” Susana Blanco, U.S. Department of Labor wage and hour division director, said in a news release. “These obligations include ensuring minors are not employed in occupations that risk their safety, health and well-being.”



Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, minors who are 16 years old cannot drive motor vehicles as part of their job description, even if they have a valid driver’s license. Minors who are 17 years old can occasionally drive vehicles for work but only under specific circumstances. For instance, a 17-year-old cannot complete route or time-sensitive deliveries for any business.  

The U.S. Department of Labor also found that Locale had misclassified minors as independent contractors and in doing so, “deprived these workers of their rights, including minimum wage and overtime protections, and other benefits,” the report read. SFGATE reached out to Locale for comment but did not hear back by publication.

Locale was founded by Chris Clark and Jonathan Friedland in 2020 when a slew of Bay Area companies joined the delivery marketplace trade amid the pandemic. By 2021, Locale eventually added 80 Bay Area bakeries, restaurants and farms among its roster of vendors, Eater wrote. Some businesses that work with Locale include big names like Manresa Bread, Bob’s Donuts, Boichick Bagels, and Roli Roti.

Clark told the San Jose Mercury News that his team was “bootstrapped” when customer demand swelled. When asked why the company hired underaged workers, Clark told the outlet that “our friends, family, and other members of our community jumped in to help fulfill orders.”

Lilita Hom, assistant director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s San Jose district office, told SFGATE that while it’s uncommon for Bay Area businesses to hire minors as drivers, it’s important for underaged workers (and their parents) to educate themselves on what duties they can legally perform on the job. (A guideline can be found on U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthRules! website.)  

Hom added that Locale will need to provide training to its management team to “ensure future compliance.”  




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