The Salvation Army was hit with three separate lawsuits in New York, Georgia and Illinois federal courts on Wednesday, alleging the thrift stores' adult rehabilitation centers exploited vulnerable people by paying them as little as $3 a week to service its stores.
Multiple workers accused the Salvation Army of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying employees well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in three separate class and collective actions. The workers, many of whom were employed by the rehabilitation centers as an alternative to incarceration or after experiencing homelessness or drug addiction, said the experience left them destabilized.
. . .
Michael Hancock of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, one of the lawyers representing the workers, told Law360 on Wednesday that he doesn't know of an exemption under the FLSA that would allow these rehabilitation programs to pay workers so little.
He said it's not uncommon for similar rehabilitation programs to exploit workers through these pay schemes. He said he's seen others function like temp agencies, where they use unskilled workers who are hired out to third parties for cheap labor.
The suits are not attempting to demonize The Salvation Army, Hancock said. He said the proposed class and collective actions aim to ensure that employees are paid what they deserve.
"It's our view that they can pay people who are working in support of their stores, whether they're in rehab or not, and continue to provide the kind of services that they're providing," Hancock said.
. . .
The workers are represented by Joseph M. Sellers, Kalpana Kotagal and Michael Hancock of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Gay Grunfeld, Michael Freedman and Priyah Kaul of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, Jessica Riggin and Valerie Brender of Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP and James Radford and Daniel Werner of Radford & Keebaugh LLC.