Meche's Donut King employee Nicole Domingue hands WAITR driver Raven Boles a customer's order Thursday, December 20, 2018, in Lafayette, La.

Waitr will lay off 2,300 Louisiana employees in April as the restaurant delivery company transitions drivers from hourly employees to independent contractors.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission released details on Monday from a legally required notice filed by Waitr earlier this month.

Waitr will be instituting a layoff for all of its drivers in every market across the nation, which includes five in Louisiana — Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Shreveport.

A total of 2,300 employees across the state will be laid off April 6, according to a letter Waitr sent to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

"It is anticipated that this will be a permanent layoff," Amy Behne, Waitr's vice president of human resources, wrote in the Feb. 3 letter, also noting there would be "no bumping rights to other jobs or locations."

All drivers will have the opportunity to stay with the company as independent contractors, according to Waitr spokesman Dean Turcol.

Waitr sent the letter as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which protects employees by requiring companies to provide 60-day notice of mass layoffs. 

It was not immediately clear how many drivers Waitr employs across the country. The company would only have to file WARN notices in those states where it employs more than 100 drivers.

Waitr is laying off a total of 491 drivers in Alabama and another 219 drivers in Beaumont, Texas, according to state WARN notice records. Waitr is laying off another 443 drivers in Mississippi, records show. 

Drivers were notified Feb. 3 that they would no longer work as hourly employees for the company. Instead, they could apply to drive as independent contractors.

The company told drivers in an email obtained by The Acadiana Advocate that the change would provide "valued drivers with benefits above and beyond what is offered today." 

When Waitr first launched in south Louisiana markets five years ago, most drivers worked as independent contractors. Within months, however, new drivers were hired as hourly employees instead. The company's few remaining independent contractors became hourly employees in August. 

Those who do continue delivering for Waitr will waive their rights to class-action lawsuits and "almost all disputes between the contractor and company," according to the independent contractor agreement Waitr sent to drivers on Feb. 3.

They'll also miss out on a portion of the tips paid by customers because Waitr will withhold a portion to cover credit card processing, the contractor agreement said.

Waitr will have fewer responsibilities to drivers under the new classification, but they'll also have less control over them, which could create problems for restaurant partners and customers who have complained about unprofessional Waitr drivers in the past.

Like any company, Waitr cannot legally require independent contractors to wear uniforms or use certain equipment.

The company might, however, encourage drivers to wear or use items with the company's logo through an "incentive fee," Waitr's independent contractor agreement said. 

Waitr, which offers services across Louisiana and about 700 small- to mid-sized cities across the country, had a tumultuous 2019.

The company started the year on a high note, with stock reaching a 52-week peak of $13 a share in March 2019. The company even acquired a similar-sized competitor, Bite Squad.

But the merging of operations proved to be a rockier task than the company anticipated. The second half of 2019 looked much different for the tech company.

Waitr's top leadership resigned. Hundreds of employees were laid off. Restaurant partners protested contract changes.

Founder Chris Meaux resigned as CEO, and Adam Price, his replacement, resigned after just four months on the job.

Carl Grimstad took over as CEO at the start of 2020. As many as 150 employees were laid off at the end of January, just one week before drivers learned they too would lose their status as hourly employees and the benefits that come with the classification.

The company's stock fell below $1 per share and has been warned by the Nasdaq stock exchange that it may be on the path to delisting if it doesn't pull its closing bid price above $1 per share by June.

Waitr's stock was trading at about 34 cents per share as of noon on Monday.

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