The outcome of a civil lawsuit between competing building service contractors could be precedent-setting for the contract cleaning industry, which is plagued by illegal hiring practices.

Steve Blacker, owner of Boulder, Colo.-based Dustbusters, is appealing a judge’s recent decision to side with the defendant in his case, which accused a local competitor of knowingly hiring illegal aliens and sought damages for lost business.

Many cleaning companies are keeping an eye on the case; if Blacker wins his appeal, he would be the first BSC to take a competitor to task for using illegal workers to lowball bids.

In 2007, Dustbusters lost bids to two competitors, Finishing Touch Janitorial Services, Longmont, Colo., and Loveland, Colo.-based Porter Industries. Blacker subsequently sued the two companies in 2008, claiming their use of illegal workers had enabled them submit lower bids and win contracts.

Porter Industries’ battle to exonerate itself from that lawsuit is detailed in our March cover story, “Overdue Diligence.”

Calls for comment to Finishing Touch and to a spokesperson for the city of Boulder were not returned.

While the judge was unable to find in favor of Dustbusters, he did acknowledge irresponsibility in hiring practices on the part of Finishing Touch. Evidence presented at the trial found about three-fourths of the company’s employees to be ineligible for work in the U.S. between 2005 and 2007.

According to the judge, Finishing Touch was careless in processing of I-9 forms, evidenced by a large U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fine. However, false documentation provided by employees was ultimately to blame. Though Finishing Touch was remiss, it was presented with documents the company reasonably believed to be genuine — as employers are required to do, the judge found.

The employee screening process, writes Senior Judge Joseph Quinn, left a lot to be desired. But he found that Finishing Touch “was not engaging in a process of knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Illegal aliens employed by [Finishing Touch] were working for [Finishing Touch] as a result of forged documents that were beyond the ability of [Finishing Touch] to decipher as forgeries or as a result of [Finishing Touch’s] careless processing of some of the many employment applications it received.”

The state of Colorado requires contractors to use E-Verify, ICE’s Web-based employment verification system, as well as certify they do not knowingly employ illegal aliens. Boulder’s contract specified that contracts can be terminated if they aren’t complied with. Finishing Touch did not fully or adequately participate in the program in 2007-2008, but Quinn found that “its failure to do so again was a result of carelessness and not the product of a knowing and preconceived plan to deceive Boulder.” E-Verify, he argues, was used by very few employers at that time.

Finishing Touch had a fair wage level of $8 per hour, which was above minimum wage and within the prevailing wage of the area at the time, and it therefore was not designed to attract illegal workers, Quinn reasons.

New Association Formed For BSCs

The American Association of Building Service Executives was established to help cleaning professionals through tough business climates. Launched in January 2010, the association has already drawn more than 500 members.

The association is open to building service contractors in addition to cleaning staffs from schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, health care facilities, office buildings and retail stores.

Members receive a weekly e-newsletter addressing employee retention strategies, H1N1 prevention, liability reform, green cleaning, federal health care reform, card check legislation and other pertinent issues. In addition, members receive distributorship pricing on cleaning supplies and equipment as well as travel discounts on airfare and hotel expenses.


New York-based ABM Janitorial Services Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of ABM Industries, has acquired all of the outstanding shares of Diversco Inc., Spartanburg, N.C., from DHI Holdings Inc.

Amrep, Inc., Marietta, Ga., has signed a definitive asset purchase agreement in which the company will acquire brands and assets used by Waterbury, Conn.-based Waterbury Companies Inc. in its North American operations.

Magic Touch Cleaning, Lee’s Summit, Mo., was honored by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and chosen as one of Kansas City, Mo.’s Top 10 Small Businesses and as a finalist for Kansas City’s Small Business of the Year Award and the Mr. K award for 2010.

Activeion hired John C. Walden as CEO. Walden will also become a member of Activeion’s board of directors.

Mark Reimers, an original leader and key member of the executive management team of Boise, Idaho-based ProTeam has passed away. Reimers joined ProTeam at its inception to lead the development of the commercial sales organization, where he most recently served as senior vice president.