Court Affirms Living Wage Award of Over $1M to Cintas Workers

June 12, 2008 ( - The California Court of Appeal has ordered the Cintas Corporation to pay more than $1.18 million in back wages and interest to hundreds of Northern California workers for violating the city of Hayward's Living Wage Ordinance.

A news release from UNITE HERE, a union representing Cintas and other laundry service workers, said the award is believed to be the largest living wage award in U.S. history. A 2005 judgment awarded the 219 workers, including current and former employees from Cintas’s San Leandro and Union City laundries, $805,243 in back wages plus $375,000 in interest, the release said. 

The final award will be higher than that judgment since interest has continued to accrue over the last three years. In addition, Cintas must pay $258,900 in civil penalties to be divided between the workers and the state of California, and legal fees and other costs associated with the litigation. 

The city of Hayward’s living wage law required employers to pay higher wages to workers who worked on city contracts.  The union claims Cintas cancelled the Hayward contract, rather than pay the higher wages. 

The company unsuccessfully raised many constitutional and procedural challenges to the workers’ lawsuit.

Workers at Cintas Corporation began organizing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters in 2003. In 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that UNITE HERE overstepped privacy laws when it used license plate numbers to access motor vehicle records of Cintas employees as part of its organization campaign (See US District Court Says UNITE Union Violated Privacy Laws ).

The appellate panel’s opinion is available  here .