Class-Action Lawsuit Alleges Modern-Day Slavery at Oklahoma Chicken Plant
Three workers submitted a class-action lawsuit in late October 2017, claiming that they had to work as little more than slaves at a chicken processing plant as part of their drug rehabilitation program. Judges in jurisdictions across the nation have ordered defendants to work at these programs without pay. The threat of incarceration hangs over their heads. Any wages that they earn go to the rehab program. The rehab center in question is Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR) where the men work for for-profit businesses.
The lawsuit states that CAAIR is violating the most fundamental labor laws and standards of human decency that the Constitution has put in place. Allegations include violations of the 13th Amendment, which bans involuntary servitude and slavery. The complaint also includes claims of human trafficking and the commission of fraud as the program participants did not receive the promised services of drug and alcohol treatment.
The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million. The men worked for up to 12 months before graduating. While not many completed the program, those who did could receive up to $1,000. However, that was far less than minimum wage standards and any overtime earned.
Arthur Copeland, a member of the lawsuit, was injured while working at a chicken processing plant on the assembly line. However, he continued to work due to the ongoing threat of being sent to prison. He later relapsed and was taken into custody. A second plaintiff, Brad McGahey, suffered a crushed hand while working at the plant. A third man, Brandon Spurgin, seriously damaged his spine after a metal door fell on his head. CAAIR seized all the workers’ compensation payments received in a later claim.
One of the founders of the drug facility claimed that the wages subsidize living expenses for the men, including housing and food. She compared the cost of the program to private treatment, calling it a viable option. She added that work served as an integral part of their recovery.
However, CAAIR is not a licensed treatment program and only one of the counselors is licensed. As such, the program might violate state laws.
If you feel that you and others have been mistreated by an employer, contact us for further legal assistance.