Gay Grunfeld and Michael Freedman of RBGG, along with co-counsel, filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court on Friday, May 7, 2021 against The Salvation Army on behalf of a class of plaintiffs alleging that the organization violates a host of California labor laws protecting workers and fails to fairly compensate its employees.  The third amended complaint (filed 10/27/22) is here:  Spilman et al. v. The Salvation Army, San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-21-591364rmy

According to the complaint:

“The Salvation Army operates approximately fifteen adult drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and  adult rehabilitation programs (“ARCs” and “ARPs,” collectively “ARCs”) in California, in which thousands of individuals seeking to conquer their addictions enroll annually. Some participants enroll voluntarily, while others are court-ordered to attend. Regardless of the way in which participants enroll in the ARCs, the cornerstone of all of the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation programs is “work therapy,” through which the Salvation Army requires that, to remain in its treatment program, all participants must work for the Salvation Army forty hours per week—and frequently more. The participants in the Salvation Army’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs primarily perform jobs that benefit, and further the operation of, the Salvation Army’s dozens of thrift stores throughout California. These jobs are physically grueling and sometimes dangerous, ranging from sorting through mountains of donated clothing and goods to operating heavy machinery in large warehouses to driving large trucks to pick up donated furniture from homes and businesses to working long hours in the Salvation Army kitchen.

The Salvation Army controls all aspects of participants’ work assignments, including, but not limited to, their working hours, their pay (or lack thereof), job duties, location of work, standards of performance, and all other conditions of their work.  Notwithstanding the substantial benefits the Salvation Army derives from the labor of the individuals who have come to its programs seeking treatment for substance abuse, for at least the last four years, the Salvation Army has maintained an across-the-board policy of failing to treat its participants as employees—even though they are plainly its employees under California law and the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders. And as a result of its unlawful policy, participants do not receive California minimum wage for their labor. Rather, the Salvation Army pays them a “gratuity”—which is often only redeemable at the Salvation Army canteen and may be as little as a few dollars a week—even though participants are working forty hours, or more, each week. In so doing, the Salvation Army violates a host of California’s labor protections for workers.”

Selected Media Coverage

Salvation Army Sued Over Failure To Pay Minimum Wage For Work Required Of People In Rehab, CBS SF Bay Area, May 10, 2021

Lawsuit Contends Salvation Army Should Pay Recovering Addicts For Their Work, KALW, May 2021