The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with RMP’s argument that participants in a work-based, drug rehabilitation program are not employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. DARP, a nonprofit drug and alcohol recovery program provided services to drug court defendants who chose to attend the program in lieu of incarceration. DARP sent some participants to work at Hendren Plastics who did not pay the participants directly, but paid DARP based on the number of hours that participants worked and, in an amount, greater than the minimum wage. The participants’ wages were paid to DARP to cover the cost of the program including room, board, medical care, travel, and rehabilitation services. Mark Fochtman, a former participant, brought a collective action alleging that Hendren Plastics owed the participants direct payment of the minimum wage and overtime. At the trial court, RMP, as lead counsel, argued that the participants were not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act because they were not employees. Instead, the economic realities of the arrangement showed the participants were the primary beneficiaries of the work arrangement because the participants entered the program to avoid imprisonment and had no reason to expect direct compensation from Hendren Plastics.
On appeal, RMP partnered with Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C. who served as lead counsel. In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit agreed with the arguments made at the trial level by RMP.
This decision provides much-needed guidance and reassurance for drug courts, rehabilitation organizations, and their corporate partners who are committed to finding alternative ways to treat drug offenders outside of incarceration.
Decision can be found at: Mark Fochtman v. Hendren Plastics, Inc., No. 20-2061 (8th Cir. 2022) :: Justia
RMP Trial Counsel: RMP Attorney Tim Hutchinson – Attorneys at Law | RMP Law
RMP Appellate Counsel: RMP Attorney Lisa Geary – Attorneys at Law | RMP Law
Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C. Appellate Counsel:
Abtin Mehdizadegan | CGWG
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