Rehab patients’ unpaid work for big companies likely illegal

A nationally renowned drug rehab program in Texas and Louisiana has sent patients struggling with addiction to work for free for some of the biggest companies in America, likely in violation of federal labor law.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that the Cenikor Foundation has dispatched tens of thousands of patients to work without pay at more than 300 for-profit companies over the years. In the name of rehabilitation, patients have moved boxes in a sweltering warehouse for Walmart, built an oil platform for Shell and worked at an Exxon refinery along the Mississippi River.

Cenikor’s success is built on the idea that work helps people recover from addiction, and participants surrender their pay to cover the costs of the two-year program. But the constant work leaves little time for counseling or treatment.

Experts say Cenikor’s business model might be illegal under federal labor law.

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