After a six-year legal battle, Cintas Corp. has agreed to an arbitrator’s recommendation and will pay more than $22.75 million to settle a federal lawsuit about overtime pay for uniform delivery drivers.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit alleged Cintas misclassified thousands of its drivers as exempt employees in order to avoid paying overtime as required by state and federal laws. The drivers are responsible for picking up dirty uniforms, oily rags and other items and dropping off fresh supplies.
Cintas had classified the drivers as salaried workers instead of hourly workers, who would be entitled to overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be compensated for all hours worked unless they are specifically exempted. Although professional-level employees are exempted and can be required to work more than 40 hours a week without being paid overtime, the drivers argued that their jobs driving trucks and delivering uniforms weren’t exempted.
A schedule for allocating the settlement money still must be worked out, and attorneys say it likely will be months before the court approves the final agreement.
Mason-based Cintas has a history of legal troubles involving its workers.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Cintas $2.78 million for the death of a worker at a laundry facility in Oklahoma who fell into an industrial dryer and was burned to death in March 2007. The company initially fought the penalty, but reached a settlement with the Justice Department to pay $2.76 million in penalties to settle six safety violation cases, including the fatal incident.
Cintas has been cited for more than 170 safety violations in its facilities since 2003, including more than 70 citations that regulators deemed could cause “death or serious physical harm.”
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.