Workers in the factory.

Arkansas Labor Laws: A Federal Judge Orders an Arkansas Senator’s Company and a Drug Rehab Center to Pay $1.1 Million to Former Participants 

This ruling can deeply affect work-based rehabs as Timothy Brooks, a federal judge, ordered the Arkansas senator Jim Hendren’s company “Hendren Plastics” and Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program (DARP) to pay $1.1 million in back wages, damages, and work performed without pay to 172 rehab participants.

Before we get deeper into the details of the news, we’ll first need to talk about what work rehab is and how it works. 

US Rehab: Work-Based Therapy

The USA is going through a nationwide drug epidemic. Therefore, when people are trying to find rehabs near me they are looking for a chance of getting low-cost rehab recovery. Because of this, rehab centers around the whole nation are offering an option that allows clients to work a job to pay for their treatment programs.

This trend is commonly called “work-based rehab,” and this rehab therapy works as a great solution for judges who are looking for a cheap way to send addicts to recovery programs instead of giving them prison time. 

Unfortunately, there is a negative side to the rehab work therapy; clients are often unpaid by the private companies they work for, and the workplaces can be dangerous. Not to mention that the labor practices that sustain the whole system might as well be illegal.

But does rehab work when it’s carried out like this? It’s hard to answer this question; what we know is that, after going through these kinds of programs, some clients need to recover from the rehab as well as from their addiction. More specifically, Ethan Cenkus, a former participant of a work-based therapy program, states the treatment is better than jail time, but if a person is trying to find help to recover from a drug problem, they are not going to find it there. 

If you are looking for valid rehab recovery programs for yourself or a loved one, check out the different types of treatments listed on the NIH website.

 The Arkansas Rehab Case

Let’s now go over the events that caused judge Timothy Brooks to order the Arkansas senator’s company “Hendren Plastics” and the DARP rehab center to pay more than $1.1 million to former participants of the program. 

Clients participated in the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program to receive proper treatment to recover from their drug problems; however, they didn’t receive the help they were looking for. What actually happened is that they were forced to work without gaining any money for their efforts at “Hendren Plastics,” Jim Hendren’s company. The rehab work they had to carry out included melting plastic in order to make boat slips that were then sold in stores such as Walmart and the Home Depot.

According to Timothy Brooks, both Hendren Plastics and DARP took advantage of work rehab to gain money, and now they were ordered to pay the clients at least the minimum wage rate for their efforts. 

Brooks wrote that both businesses exploited the labor market in order to gain money privately. He also added that drug addicts are still people who need to have wages; therefore, the companies needed to monetarily recognize the work they did. 

Mark Fochtman, a former resident who filed the suit, stated that he wasn’t looking for the money, but he just wanted for them to be exposed. The participant said the company needed to treat people more like humans and less like a business, especially since his rehab recovery, and that of many other addicts isn’t a business.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 since an investigation discovered that DARP and many similar work-based rehab centers often exploit their clients and violate labor laws when they refuse to at least pay the minimum wage to the participants. 

DARP was basically a temp staffing agency, and Hendren Plastics paid them a set rate for the work of the participants. Needless to say, that rate was way lower than a regular one the company would pay for normal employees. Moreover, Hendren didn’t need to pay Medicare taxes, Social Security taxes, and several different types of insurances, such as federal insurance.

Furthermore, former participants revealed that they resided in metal buildings that were invaded by bedbugs, and the only thing they had to eat consisted of expired food. Workers could also get hurt during their working hours, but those who got injured and couldn’t work were then forced to leave the rehab recovery program and go to prison, while others chose to work through the pain without the chance of getting any proper medical attention. 

After the lawsuit was filed, Hendren Plastics interrupted its contract with DARP. Now, both businesses have 30 days to appeal and, if they don’t, the participants might receive their wages in a month’s time.