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Laundry Workers Settle Living Wage Suit in LA

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 18, 2009 11:55 AM

In an unusual example of government looking out for the little guy, Cintas Uniform company settled a living wage suit brought by its laundry workers today. Filed in 2004, the workers Union accused the company of failing to pay a living wage from 2000-2004 while under a contract with the county, as provided for by the Los Angeles County Living Wage Ordinance.

Like most areas of California, LA is an expensive place to live. Perhaps with this in mind, the county Board of Supervisors passed the original Living Wage Ordinance in 1999, and wages were increased again in July of 2007. Currently in LA county, full time employees of companies in a contract with LA county must be paid a living wage of $9.64 per hour with health benefits of $2.20 per hour or more. Full time contract employees must be paid a living wage of $11.84 if health benefits are not provided.

Cintas admits to no wrongdoing under the settlement and says it settled to avoid litigation costs. Under the settlement, it has agreed to pay $3.3 million in back wages and interest to more than 500 Southern California workers and another $3.2 million in penalties and attorney's fees. Cintas additionally paid out an additional $1.4 million to workers in the San Francisco Bay Area last year.

Local ordinances and state laws set differing levels of minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, which also covers states with no set minimum wage, is currently $7.25 an hour. If the federal and a lower state minimum wage apply to the same worker, they must be paid the higher of the two. Several states have state-wide minimum wage rates higher than the federal rate including Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Vermont. Until this year, Kansas had the lowest state approved minimum wage, set at $2.65, but that will change to $7.25 starting on January 1, 2010.

According to stats compiled by the Living Wage Resource Center, there are currently 58 living wage ordinances on the books across the nation with 46 city laws and 10 county wide ordinances.

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