Cenikor investigated for possible labor violations

UPDATE: On May 1, 2019, Borsellino, P.C. filed a lawsuit against Cenikor for labor violations related to its work program.  For more information regarding this lawsuit, including who may be eligible to join it and how to join it, click here.

Cenikor Foundation, an addiction recovery program, claims that it has a “long history of fighting for our clients’ recovery alongside them,” and that it does “not allow the cost of treatment to become a hurdle for those seeking to improve their lives.”  However, according to an investigation by Reveal News, Cenikor has turned patients struggling with addiction into a pool of unpaid, forced labor. Patients are typically sent to Cenikor by a court order in order to seek treatment for drug addition. However, according to the Reveal article, Cenikor has outsourced its patients to work for various companies and pocketed the money paid for their patients’ work.  Under  the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), workers are entitled to receive overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times the worker’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over forty in a given workweek. Additionally, under the FLSA, workers are entitled to receive minimum wage at a rate of $7.25 an hour for all hours worked. 

According to Reveal, Cenikor patients work for some of the largest for-profit companies, performing manual labor, including moving boxes in a sweltering warehouse, performing job tasks and oil refineries, and building oil platforms. Workers typically work well above eighty hours per week and they are not paid for any of this time and labor. Cenikor claims that their business model is complete legal and premised on what they call a simple idea: “Work helps people recover from addiction. All participants have to do is surrender their pay to cover the costs of the two-year program.”  The Reveal article claims that last year Cenikor made more than $7 million from work contracts alone.

The Reveal article authors interviewed several patients and found that they received no money for their work. Patients were told that what would have been their paycheck is used to offset the costs of the program itself.  In Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290 (1985), the Supreme Court ruled that the minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping requirements of the FLSA applied to workers “engaged in the commercial activities of a religious foundation” even if they did not consider themselves to be employees. It also ruled that these requirements did not violate the religion clauses of the First Amendment.  Thus, the labor laws of this country, specifically the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime laws, apply equally to nonprofits and their patients.  While Cenikor may be able to deduct the cost of room and board, it cannot keep all of participants’ wages.  In the opinion of this experienced overtime attorney, Cenikor’s labor practices almost certainly violate the FLSA.  

Are you a current or former patient at Cenikor or some other rehabilitation organization or facility who was outsourced for work? If so, you may have a claim for unpaid wages. Consider speaking with an experienced overtime attorney today who will fight to recover your unpaid overtime and minimum wage. Josh Borsellino is a licensed Texas attorney that fights for the rights of works. He offers free consultations and be reached at 214.997.3371. 

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