Salvation Army accused of overworking, underpaying rehab participants in lawsuit

Many of the participants were formerly incarcerated, had overcome addiction and didn’t have a place where they could live. They were required to carry heavy furniture and machines, sort donations and maintain thrift stores. If they didn’t comply, they were expelled from the program, which meant a loss of housing, according to the complaint. The housing is described here “dorm-like sleeping arrangements.”

Avery Acker, a former participant, stated in a news release, that he joined the adult rehab center program (ARC) to gain stability. “but it did nothing to set me up for success after I left.”He was in Altoona, Penn.

“Making only dollars a week meant that I left the program in no better shape than I had entered it; meanwhile, The Salvation Army got months of my virtually unpaid, full-time labor,”He said. “I didn’t deserve to be treated this way, and neither do the thousands of workers in ARCs around the country.”

Sales from The Salvation Army’s thrift stores brought in almost $600 million in revenue in 2019, according to the complaint. 

The Salvation Army declined comment to discuss pending litigation.

“We remain dedicated to our mission of meeting human needs without discrimination, which includes offering programs that promote stability to anyone in need in accordance with our capacity to help,”In a statement, the organization stated.  

The lawsuit seeks to have the court award unpaid wages to program participants and allow those still enrolled to leave the program. It is also seeking class-action status. According to the release, 120 adult rehabilitation centers are operated by the Salvation Army in the United States. The program has been used by thousands.

“In name, The Salvation Army’s ARCs claim to be rehabilitative, but the reality is that they take advantage of vulnerable people with few options,” Michael Hancock, one of the attorney’s representing program participants, said in the news release. “Instead of getting support on the road to stability and recovery, participants are forced to do grueling manual labor, live in meager conditions, make pennies in wages and give up government assistance that could improve their self-sufficiency.”

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