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Salvation Army Sued for a Failing to Pay Wages to Drug Program Participants

A class action lawsuit alleges that the Salvation Army’s adult drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and adult rehabilitation programs violate California law by failing to treat participants in those programs as employees.

The civil complaint was filed in a California Superior Court on May 7, 2021. Plaintiffs Justin Spillman, Devin Gerardy, Teresa Chase, Tracy Woodmancy, and Sye Smallwood either were ordered by a court to enroll in one the Salvation Army’s programs or they did so of their own accord. While there is no fee to enter one of the Salvation Army’s programs, it requires participants to sign up for food stamps and to relinquish them to the Salvation Army, who provides room and board for participants.

The programs utilize a “work therapy” model that requires participants to work forty-hour weeks for the Salvation Army. Extra hours were assessed for violations of the program’s rules. The complaint alleged the Plaintiffs were required to work in the Salvation Army’s warehouse collecting, unpacking, and sorting clothing. Some were required to work as maintenance personnel, on baling machines pressing bundles of clothing sorted for rags, work at the front desk, or drive around to collect clothes from drop boxes or homes.

The complaint alleges that for the precious 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 [the] California [Labor Code] and the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders.” Rather than provide its participants the California minimum wage, “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.”

The lawsuit challenged the Salvation Army’s (a) “duty to pay the state minimum wage for all hours worked and the duty to pay overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of eight hours per day or forty hours per week,” (b) “duty to authorize and provide rest periods,” (c) “duty to furnish accurate wage statements,” and (d) “duty to pay an employee all wages owed upon termination.”

The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well compensatory damages. The Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Rosen Bien Galvan and Grunfeld in San Francisco and the Rukin, Hyland & Riggin law firm in Oakland, California. See: Spillman v. The Salvation Army, Superior Court of San Francisco County, Case No. CGC-21-591364. 

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Related legal case

Spillman v. The Salvation Army