SAN FRANCISCO – The California Court of Appeal has upheld a 2005 judgment against Cintas Corp., ordering it to pay more than $1.18 million in back wages and interest to 219 Northern California workers for violating the city of Hayward’s Living Wage Ordinance.
The decision affirming a September 2005 Alameda Superior Court ruling is believed to be the largest living-wage award in U.S. history, according to UNITE HERE, which has been attempting to unionize Cintas since 2003.
The judgment awarded the workers, including current and former employees from Cintas’ San Leandro and Union City laundries, is $805,243 in back wages plus $375,000 in interest. The final award will be “significantly higher” because interest has continued to accrue over the last three years, UNITE HERE says.
Cintas must also pay $258,900 in civil penalties, as well as the workers’ legal fees and other costs totaling roughly $1.2 million under the ruling.
“While Cintas and its attorneys are in the process of reviewing the decision, it appears to uphold the Alameda County lower court’s decision,” Cintas says in a prepared statement issued June 12.
“The Court did not find that Cintas willfully failed to pay its employees’ wages or maliciously violate[d] the law. The Court further acknowledged that the legal obligations imposed on employers were unclear at the time of Cintas’ actions.”
The city of Hayward contracted with Cintas for certain uniform and linen services from July 1999 through June 2003. The city had adopted a living-wage ordinance in April 1999, requiring covered contractors pay their employees at least $8 per hour if health benefits are provided, or $9.25 per hour if no benefits are provided.
When Cintas terminated the contract in 2003, workers filed a class-action lawsuit to collect back wages and benefits. Cintas contended unsuccessfully that Hayward had no authority to regulate wages at facilities outside of its boundaries.