A press release issued today on behalf of US law firm FordHarrison, headed ‘Transparency and the Janitorial Contractor-Subcontractor Relationship’, underscores the need for property management and prime cleaning contractor clients to ensure their subcontractors pay legislated wages and conditions.
The ‘legal alert’ concerned a settlement FordHarrison was involved in with a large contract cleaning company and a major retail department store chain. In this case, the department store hired the contract cleaning company to provide janitorial services for its stores throughout California.
That involved hundreds of stores. To service these outlets, the cleaning contractor subcontracted the work to a network of local janitorial subcontractors.
The subcontractors filed a class action lawsuit against the contractor as well as the department store. They claimed they were not paid sufficient funds to allow the subcontractors to comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws such as meeting minimum wage requirements, employment taxes, etc.
They also claimed that both the contractor and the department store ‘knew or should have known’ that the funds (payments to the subcontractors) would be insufficient.
The case proceeded through the California courts which ultimately agreed with the subcontractors and required both the contractor and the department store to pay US$2.3 million to settle the case.
It also required the contractor to maintain records of the number of hours worked by individual janitors, review those hours for minimum wage violations, provide information of their rights under the California Labor Code, and ensure that the janitors receive overtime pay when applicable.
According to Terry Sambrowski, executive director of the National Service Alliance (NSA), a group purchasing organisation for larger building service contractors and related businesses in the US, both contractors and their customers can learn from this case.
“There must be a level of transparency so that all parties — the customer, the lead contractor, and the subcontractor — are sure they are in compliance with all federal and state employment regulations. That will help prevent situations like this from occurring and be healthier for the professional cleaning industry overall.”
About the NSA
The NSA is a buying group serving the professional contract cleaning industry. Starting with 19 members, the NSA now has nearly 70 contract cleaner members – most of which are said to be the leading names in the professional cleaning industry – as well as members in other service industries such as security and plumbing. Total membership is now nearly 300 members.