Following a worker’s death and millions in OSHA fines, some shareholders filed a lawsuit against Cintas Corp. alleging the board has failed to ensure the company complied with safety regulations. Now the company has settled the lawsuit.
The shareholders don’t get any money from the settlement, but they did get this: Cintas has promised a work environment that promotes safety and compliance with laws.
Specifically, Cintas has agreed to:
- provide regular written safety reports to the board of directors
- have a safety officer attend shareholder meetings, and
- implement a 24-hour hotline so workers can report safety and other suspected violations.
The shareholders stated that among their reasons for filing the lawsuit was the March 6, 2007 death of Cintas employee Eleazar Torres-Gomez at its Oklahoma City plant. Torres-Gomez fell onto an unguarded conveyor and was dragged into a 300° industrial dryer. He was already dead from burns when another employee found him 20 minutes later.
Cintas agreed to pay an almost $3 million OSHA fine in that and five other cases. OSHA had originally cited Cintas with 43 willful violations, many involving failure to guard machines and to lock out hazardous energy while employees were maintaining equipment. OSHA downgraded the severity of the willful violations in the settlement. Two Democrats in Congress called the settlement a last-minute pardon of Cintas under President Bush’s administration.
“From our perspective, the claims had no merit,” said Gerry Utter, a lawyer representing some of the company’s directors in the suit. “When one person dies, it doesn’t mean anybody did anything wrong,” Utter told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
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