Rotational molder Hendren Plastics and its CEO, Jim Hendren, are forgoing $380,000 in court costs they could collect in a long-running legal battle over the company's use of workers from a drug treatment prison diversion program.
The newspaper Arkansas Business reported that Hendren told a federal court that it will not seek to collect $380,000 from former employees and participants in the lawsuit.
It said its decision to hire workers through the treatment program "was never about money" and instead was done to support its belief in drug treatment as an alternative to prison.
The case has a complicated history: a federal district court in 2019 ruled in favor of the employees, saying that Hendren and other companies owed them $1.2 million in back wages for work they did for the companies while they were part of drug treatment program.
But a higher federal court — the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis — ruled in August in the company's favor, saying that Hendren Plastics did not violate state minimum wage laws in employing participants in six-month stretches.
Participating companies like Hendren paid the treatment agency, but not the workers.
The treatment program provided the workers room, board and transportation to the job sites, although some of the participants said they didn't think the treatment program was effective.
Hendren, according to the article in Arkansas Business, said the company was motivated by compassion for people struggling with addiction.
"Hendren agreed to serve as a [drug treatment] worksite — not for any pecuniary benefit, but because it steadfastly believed then — as it does now — that drug courts and rehabilitation programs are better alternatives than prison for people with substance abuse problems," the company told the court.
The district court that initially heard the case dismissed it in late October.