No need to pay prisoners minimum wage—Court says it’s not ‘Slave labor’

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Is your organization providing employment opportunities within Illinois prisons? If so, you don’t have to worry about being sued for minimum-wage or overtime violations by the prisoners you employ, thanks to a federal court’s common-sense decision.

Recent case: Ricky Young, who is serving time at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, works in the facility as a dishwasher for Aramark Prison Food Corp., which has the contract to feed the detainees.

Young told the court that he regularly worked three days per week, eight to nine hours per shift. He is not paid but instead receives 12 “points” per week for his services. Points are like cash and can be traded for goods at the prison commissary.

Young complained and said he preferred to be paid in cash, and at minimum wage. He claimed he felt he was exploited like “slave labor.”

The federal court tossed out his case, reasoning that Young wasn’t even entitled to a job in the facility, much less minimum wage. (Young v. Monahan, et al., No. 07-3161, CD IL, 2007)

Final note: Employers must still pay minimum wage and overtime to prisoners who are employed through a work-release program. But if they perform their work inside the correctional facility, the FLSA doesn’t apply.  

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