Cintas Corp. sets unrealistic production quotas for laundry workers that cause dangerous conditions and it led to the death of one worker in March 2007, according to a motion filed in a lawsuit against the company.
The widow of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, an employee who died when he fell into a dryer at a Cintas facility near Tulsa, Okla., made the allegation in an application filed Tuesday that seeks to amend her lawsuit.
Attorneys for Amalia Diaz-Torres, the surviving spouse, allege that the safety programs Cintas offers to workers don’t address the problems that led to her husband’s death.
Gomez died after he became caught on a large robotic conveyor belt that’s used to transfer uniforms from washers to dryers. He was dragged into the 300-degree dryer and already was dead from burns when another worker found him about 20 minutes later.
Internal company memos cited at a Congressional hearing revealed that company officials knew about the dangers posed by the conveyor belts and had close calls before but never installed protective guardrails that could have prevented the incident.
Mason-based Cintas initially tried to block the Gomez family's claim to workers compensation benefits but dropped the effort.
In a letter that Cintas CEO Scott Farmer sent to all employees shortly after the incident, the company stated Gomez failed to follow standard safety procedures.
“Unfortunately, (Gomez) climbed on top of a moving conveyor to dislodge a jam, contrary to all safety training and procedures, and fell into a dryer,” Farmer wrote.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Cintas $2.78 million for the Gomez incident, but the company fought the penalty.
In the waning days of the Bush Administration, Cintas reached a settlement with the Justice Department to pay $2.76 million in penalties to settle six safety violation cases, including the one involving Gomez's death.
The largest uniform supplier in the U.S., Cintas reported $531 million in profits for 2008. Board Chairman Richard T. Farmer is the richest man in Greater Cincinnati with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion.