Salvation Army charged with allegedly due wages
Rehabilitation program staff say they should be paid for a job well done.
A group of five former Salvation Army (SA) drug and alcohol rehabilitation participants filed a class action lawsuit against the organization in the San Francisco Superior Court alleging that they were not paid to work at the facility. The Salvation Army is one of the largest drug and alcohol rehabilitation providers in the country. The most important treatment focus is “work therapy” in the second-hand shops. Some people join on their own account while others are ordered by a court.
The program offers room and board, as well as spiritual counseling, Bible studies, and recreational opportunities. The website states that the SA program “provides housing, food, counseling, community and employment as we work to treat the symptoms, and ultimately the causes, of persistent alcohol and drug addiction.”
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The lawsuit alleges that the program violated California labor laws by not treating participants as employees and not paying them the minimum wage and overtime. According to the complaint, “the participants worked more than 40 hours a week in physically demanding and sometimes dangerous” situations. It continues: “Some raised funds and worked in warehouses and shops, sorting, evaluating and displaying clothing, bedding, shoes, accessories and housewares. Others carried out maintenance work, repaired goods or operated heavy machinery. In return, they received tips between 1 and 25 US dollars per week or “canteen cards” with which they could buy lemonade, chips or other snacks in the Salvation Army canteen. “
Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld and Michael Freeman are among the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Grünfeld said: “We appreciate the good that the Salvation Army has done in the world and the homeless shelters. And we support all efforts to help oppressed people. But you can do that while paying the minimum wage. “
Most people do not complete the program, according to the complaint, because the SA “only accepts applicants who are fit for work and routinely throws participants out of the program when they are sick or injured and no longer able to work”. The Salvation Army has argued that these participants are not considered employees and therefore the charity is not required to pay them.
Jessica Riggin, another of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said the organization was breaking labor law by not treating workers as employees. Whether or not the program helps people is irrelevant. There is no exception to the Labor Code for non-profit organizations. Even if they do good, that is no reason for them not to obey the law, as it is for any other California employer. “
The Federal Ministry of Labor found that the Salvation Army was violating labor law back in 1990, but after influencing federal lawmakers, the agency dropped the matter. The ministry then added specific language to an internal manual to help fend off future lawsuits against the SA for wage violations.
The plaintiffs are demanding a class certificate and paybacks for the work done. Her attorneys filed the case under the Private Attorneys General Act, a California law that allows private attorneys representing employees to bring lawsuits on behalf of the state.
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