Cintas Settles Lawsuit with Worker’s Widow for Undisclosed Sum

Bruce Beggs |

TULSA, Okla. — Cintas Corp. has settled a civil lawsuit filed by the widow of a laundry worker killed when he fell into an industrial dryer at Cintas’ Tulsa plant in March 2007, according to U.S. District Court records. Settlement terms were not disclosed.
The parties had resolved Amalia Diaz Torres’ claims against Cintas during a court-ordered settlement conference on April 15—a few days before the case was due to go to trial—but a hearing for court approval of the settlement didn’t occur until May 24.
Eleazar Torres-Gomez, 46, had climbed onto a conveyor to clear a jam of wet laundry when he fell into the operating dryer and became trapped. A co-worker found his burned body in the large dryer about 20 minutes after it had started.
“Nothing will ever replace her husband or give her sons back their father,” says attorney Rick Garcia, whose McAllen, Texas, firm represented Torres and negotiated the settlement. “No company is above the law. The low-wage industrial worker deserves as much protection on the job as company executives—even more, since their jobs are usually more dangerous.”
Spokeswoman Heather Maley says Cintas will have no formal statement due to the settlement’s confidentiality, but reiterated that the company remains committed to ensuring the safety of its work force. Cintas employs 34,000 workers companywide and has reported that its safety record is 20-30% better than the industry average.
Court filings showed that Torres’ attorneys were prepared to argue that Cintas knew about and encouraged workers to circumvent safety procedures to keep up with production. Shortly after Torres-Gomez’s death, Cintas President/CEO Scott Farmer said his company was “grief-stricken” by the incident but asserted that Torres-Gomez’s actions were “contrary to all safety training and procedures.”
The death sparked a federal investigation of Cintas and prompted U.S. lawmakers to introduce laws for even greater federal oversight of worksite safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) later fined Cintas for safety violations at the Tulsa plant and five other locations.
Cintas reached an agreement with OSHA pertaining to all automated and semi-automated laundry facilities under OSHA’s federal jurisdiction in December 2008, and agreed to pay $2.76 million in fines.
Equipment manufacturer Lavatec and three Cintas employees were also originally named as defendants in Torres’ lawsuit, but were removed during the course of the proceedings.
Torres-Gomez’s death was the focus of a recent ABC Nightline report about death and injury in the workplace. You can view that report here.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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