Sens. Warren, Baldwin ask for investigation of work requirements at rehab facilities

Sens. Warren, Baldwin ask for investigation of work requirements at rehab facilities

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) want the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate mandatory work requirements at drug and alcohol treatment facilities that receive federal funding.

Following a recent report by the Center for Investigative Journalism that found that individuals at some drug and alcohol rehab facilities are required to work without pay as part of their treatment program, Warner, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Baldwin, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, are asking the GAO to look into whether or not the practices violate federal law.

“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 the investigation, reporters found rehab facilities would contract those in the programs out as labor for private companies and corporations. While those in the programs receive no compensation for their time, the rehab facilities are paid for the labor they provide.

The practice creates a “huge, unpaid shadow workforce,” according to the investigation.

“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,” the report said.

The senators also wrote that there seems to be little to no evidence that these work programs successfully treat drug and alcohol issues. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guidance, the senators wrote, “few studies have addressed the effectiveness of vocational services in substance abuse treatment settings,” adding that programs investigated through those existing studies “did not demonstrate much long-term effect and did not decrease substance use.”