LOS ANGELES — Cintas Corp. has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that it violated the City of Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, and Workers United/SEIU, which claims to represent 70% of laundry workers in California, says the settlement will cost the company a record $6.5 million.
More than 500 Southern California Cintas laundry workers are due to receive back wages, the union says.
The lawsuit — Ayon et al. v. Cintas Corp. — involved three Cintas rental facilities that rented goods to the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power under contract, says Cintas, which agreed to the settlement on Dec. 11.
“While Cintas firmly believes that it fully complies with all federal and state wage and hour laws, including the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance (LWO) which was the subject of the case, the Company has decided to resolve the claims through a mediated settlement, in order to avoid the additional expense and distraction of ongoing litigation,” Cintas says in a prepared statement.
“The company’s focus is to maintain the strong relationships we have with our employee-partners while providing the outstanding service our customers have grown to expect from Cintas,” says Cintas CEO Scott Farmer in the statement. “Resolving this claim will enable us to do just that.”
The mediated settlement, which still must be approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court, provides $3.3 million in back wages and interest for more than 500 Cintas laundry workers at the company’s Ontario, Pico Rivera and Whittier sites. Cintas will pay an additional $250,000 in penalties and more than $2.6 million in legal fees for the five-year class-action case, according to Workers United/SEIU.
“We are overjoyed that Cintas is finally paying us the money we earned,” says Blanca Arrellega, a worker at Cintas’ Whittier facility, in the union’s press release. “Five years was too long to wait to get what we worked so hard for.”
Los Angeles has a city ordinance that requires private businesses entering a contract to perform work for the city to pay a “living wage” to their employees who perform the work.
Cintas contends that Regulation 5, the portion of Los Angeles’ LWO at the heart of the employee lawsuit, didn’t apply to its workers because they didn’t work the minimum number of hours per month on those goods.
“Cintas’ evidence was that Cintas employee-partners on average spent far less than 20 hours per month, and in most cases only minutes per week, on goods leased to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, making the LWO inapplicable according to Regulation 5,” Cintas says.
The Los Angeles settlement comes almost a year after Cintas was required to pay roughly $1.2 million in back wages, interest and penalties to hundreds of Northern California Cintas workers and the State of California in a case where Cintas was found to have violated the City of Hayward’s Living Wage Ordinance (Amaral vs. Cintas).
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