Federal Court Opens Door to Tens of Thousands of Workers and Families at Cintas in Landmark Class-Action Lawsuit
PHILADELPHIA, OH, June 8, 2005 – A federal court has certified a class-action lawsuit against UNITE, a textile industry union, for alleged violations to federal privacy laws, noting that the union could face millions of dollars in penalties, plus punitive damages and attorney fees. The court’s decision also could impact many other union organizing campaigns, with significant additional liability to UNITE and other unions.
UNITE, which so far has been unsuccessful in its two-year attempt to organize Cintas employees, has already admitted that it has obtained personal information from license-plate records in at least nine states for its organizing efforts – an apparent violation of the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act,” 18 U.S.C. § 2721, et seq. Prompted by the murder of an actress by a stalker, the 1994 law prohibits the release and use of personal information based on license plate and vehicle-registration data.
The Court did not restrict the class to Cintas’ 30,000 employees, but included “all persons whose license plate numbers were used by UNITE . . . between July 1, 2002 and August 2, 2004” in connection with UNITE’s campaign against Cintas. Thus, spouses, family members and others whose motor-vehicle information was obtained by the union in connection with the Cintas campaign also are eligible to participate in the class-action lawsuit.
“This is a real victory for our employees because many of our employees – both in the United States and Canada – have complained that they are being contacted by phone and have had frequent, unwanted personal visits at home by union organizers,” said Cintas President and CEO, Scott Farmer. “They are concerned about how the union got their names, addresses and phone numbers – some of which were unlisted. We believe the union has clearly invaded the privacy of our employees.”
The scope of personal information obtained by potentially illegal means is not yet known, but at least includes addresses and telephone numbers, he said.
“As a conscientious employer, we support individuals’ rights to protect their own and their families’ privacy,” Farmer concluded, “and we believe laws should be followed and the union should be held accountable.”
The Cintas employees retained the Philadelphia law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen, P.C. The lawsuit, captioned Elizabeth Pichler, et al. v. UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees, AFL-CIO), et al. was filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, with the case number of 04-CV-2841.
Headquartered in Cincinnati , Cintas Corporation provides highly specialized services to businesses of all types throughout North America . Cintas designs, manufactures and implements corporate identity uniform programs, and provides entrance mats, restroom supplies, promotional products, first aid and safety products, fire protection services and document management services for approximately 700,000 businesses. Cintas is a publicly held company traded over the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol CTAS, and is a Nasdaq-100 company and component of the Standard & Poors 500 Index. The Company has achieved 35 consecutive years of growth in sales and earnings, to date.