At Warren and Baldwin Request, Independent Watchdog Agrees to Investigate Mandatory Work Requirements at Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Facilities Receiving Federal Funding
A recent investigation found that individuals at these facilities are being required to work, unpaid, as part of their treatment program, creating a "huge, unpaid shadow workforce"
Washington, DC - At the request of United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to conduct an independent audit of mandatory vocational requirements at drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities that receive federal funding.
The senators' call for an investigation follows recent reporting by the Center for Investigative Reporting which found that individuals at some drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities are being required to work, unpaid, as part of their treatment program, creating a "huge, unpaid shadow workforce."
"The GAO's decision to investigate this practice is a good first step toward ensuring no one seeking treatment for substance use disorder is subjected to predatory conditions that threaten their recovery and violate their rights," Senator Warren said. "Their investigation will aid in ensuring federal funds are being used for evidence-based treatment programs, and that federal labor laws are being properly enforced."
"It is simply wrong that some drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities are requiring patients to work for little or no pay, under predatory and unfair working conditions, as part of their treatment program," said Senator Baldwin. "The Government Accountability Office is right to have accepted our request to investigate so we can learn more and ensure that these facilities are operating within the rule of law. We need to make sure these rehabilitation facilities are using evidence-based treatments and that they are not taking advantage of those who are in recovery."
Some rehabilitation facilities have mandatory work requirements, described as vocational therapy, in which facilities send participants to work for contractors of or directly at private companies, with these individuals receiving little to no pay for their labor. This practice appears to be a violation of federal labor law, but has escaped federal enforcement.
"Requiring individuals to work without compensation is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes standards for labor protections including minimum wage and overtime pay," the senators wrote in their request. "Individuals struggling with substance use disorder who attend rehabilitation programs should never be subjected to predatory conditions that threaten their recovery and violate their rights under the law."
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