Thursday, March 20, 2003

Federal suit seeks millions in OT for Cintas workers

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The union trying to organize Cintas Corp. workers stepped up its campaign Wednesday with a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in unpaid overtime for Cintas route salespeople.

"Cintas has made millions of dollars in unearned profits at the expense of its employees," said Bruce Raynor, president of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), which launched one of its largest organizing efforts earlier this year against the Mason uniform supplier.

The class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco accuses Cintas, the largest and most profitable uniform supplier, of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws by classifying route salespeople as exempt under the law and, thus, not entitled to overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.

The union said the lawsuit could involve up to 3,500 current and former Cintas employees and cost the company up to $100 million for unpaid overtime. The company will report its fiscal third-quarter results today .

Raynor said the case is one of the largest ever filed for unpaid overtime for laundry truck drivers.

A company spokeswoman said Cintas hadn't reviewed the lawsuit but added, "we feel we've paid our route drivers, and all 27,000 employees, properly and fairly."

She said the lawsuit was another union tactic in its organizing campaign.

Last year, the company agreed to settle a similar lawsuit over unpaid overtime in California for a reported $10 million .

The spokeswoman said the company believed the workers were exempt from the overtime pay requirement because their job involved selling products other than uniforms but decided to settle because of a reinterpretation of the California law.

Raynor said "it doesn't matter what you call a worker, it matters what they do" in determining whether overtime should be paid.

Under federal law, the union says, only narrow exemptions are permitted for executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees.


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