The state Senate Labor Committee held a second hearing following up on claims that a job training program exploited trainees.
Representatives from the state Department of Labor updated lawmakers on the investigation into the HomeWorks training program run by Interfaith Community Housing. The program is accused of not paying or misclassifying workers and providing unsafe, unsupervised working conditions.
Labor Secretary Cerron Cade says Interfaith has rejected several requests and a subpoena for documentation. Cade says his Department has filed a petition in Superior Court and hopes Interfaith will be forced to provide information.
“I think what I’m most surprised at is that Interfaith won’t release information. And somehow, somewhere along that line that we actually have to pursue it into the court system, it’s a little frightening ... that they actually feel that empowered that they can do that,” said Senator Nicole Poore.
Poore also raised the issue of a “disconnect” between divisions of the Department of Labor that allowed the alleged labor law violations to slip under the radar.
Secretary Cade says the Department is making changes to have Labor Law enforcement staff present on Delaware Workforce Development Board meetings, which process RFPs and grant awards.
Director of Employment and Training Stacey Laing says looking back, she sees a red flag in the way the program was monitored.
“When we went to talk to some of the actual trainees, they were working on sites and our staff didn’t want to disturb them,” she said.
Laing says going forward she plans to have her office do monthly face-to-face meetings with training programs, including talking to students.
Julie Petroff, Director of the Division of Industrial Affairs, says many offices responsible for monitoring and enforcing labor laws are understaffed and under-resourced.
Department of Labor representatives said they first learned about the allegations against HomeWorks when they were contacted by The News Journal.