There are entire work programs in various parts of the country that attempt to find creative ways to avoid paying employees.
Workers enroll in rehab programs and labor without being compensated
The situation began when a large program with the Cenikor Foundation sent thousands of workers to for profit companies. They were all enrolled in substance abuse rehab. Some of the jobs they worked included moving boxes in a large Walmart warehouse or helping to construct an oil platform for Shell. One former worker at an oil refinery said that he worked 10 hour days laying steel rebar in 100 degree heat without being paid.
The program was justified by Cenikor through making the workers agree to surrender their wages in exchange for the costs of the rehab program and treatment for two years. An independent investigation of the program by The Center for Investigative Reporting showed that participants in the program essentially just worked a lot and received little treatment in exchange.
The job sites where workers were sent were also filled with problems. A number of workers compensation claims and injury lawsuits were filed after workplace accidents. The employees did not have proper supervision or safety equipment in many situations. Records show that at least one worker died on a job site several years ago. There are several hundred pages of employment lawsuits related to incidents involving Cenikor workers.
Experts who reviewed the situation believe that the federal Fair Labor Standards act was violated, as all work must be compensated at minimum wage level or higher and overtime pay should have also been available. A former employee of the Department of Labor said it was illegal for the employer to take away wages from the workers rather than looking into other measures.
This business model used by Cenikor and other rehab programs may be unethical and entirely illegal. Federal law should be enforced to end the program at some point in the near future. Those who have investigated the programs in recent years say that they are little more than schemes to prey upon vulnerable workers. Some rehabs who used this model were called “work camps for private industry.”
Cenikor was targeted because it is one of the largest non-profit organizations involved in this industry. They receive millions of dollars worth of work contracts each year and their CEO makes approximately $400,000 annually.
Regulations that ensure employees are compensated properly
Whether an employer is a private company, non-profit organization, or government entity, all of them are bound by state and federal laws that require workers to be paid wages and overtime. Many workplaces have been found over the years attempting to take shortcuts that lead to improper payment. Others may simply not have enough funding on hand to pay their workers correctly, but they are still owed money for any time that was invested in working for their employer.
Get help from an experienced employment and labor lawyer
If you need to speak to an attorney in Louisiana about unpaid wages, overtime, or other workplace issues, contact Miller, Hampton, and Hilgendorf. They focus their practice on defending the rights of local workers.