Washio’s ‘Ninjas’ Fight Back

There’s an app for everything these days. Want to find a good restaurant?—There’s an app for that. Need to know what traffic looks like?—There’s an app for that. Want to know what you look like with a new haircut?—There’s an app for that. One of these novel apps to hit the market includes Washio, an online-app based company that picks up and delivers dry cleaning. The company has a network of drivers, dubbed “Ninjas,” that flit about town, covertly collecting your dirty laundry and completing their cleaning missions. But Washio’s Ninjas have had enough.

In a class action lawsuit filed last month in San Francisco, Ninja Barry Taranto is alleging the company misclassified him and other Ninjas as independent contractors and subsequently owes them business expense reimbursements.

Ninjas are paid on a per delivery basis and not an hourly wage. They sign an exclusivity agreement which disallows Ninjas from working for any other similar company.

They also drive their own vehicles, but, the company has a set of rules and standards by which the Ninjas must transport its clientele’s precious cargo. Ninjas are subject to a code of honor—one must store the clothes in a specific way; one must interact with customers in a specific way; one must abide by a strict schedule of collecting and dropping off cargo. Ninjas are a laundry version of Uber and Lyft drivers, who are alleging similar labor violations.

The lawsuit contends that the entirety of Washio’s business relies on the Ninjas—without them Washio would not exist. They are “fully integrated into Washio’s business.” Washio’s control over the Ninjas can possibly point to an employee/employer relationship, which means, the Ninjas should be getting reimbursed for expenses incurred while driving—gas, maintenance, parking fees, etc.

Will the Ninjas emerge victorious? We’ll monitor the story closely and report back when the mission is complete.

Source: Taranto v. Washio Inc.