An unemployed University of Birmingham graduate is challenging the legality of a Government work experience scheme that she says forced her to work for free in Poundland.
Cait Reilly, 22, from Kings Heath, said she had to leave her voluntary work at a museum to stack shelves in the budget store for two weeks or risk losing her unemployment benefits.
Her legal team is asking a judge at London's High Court to quash Department for Work and Pensions regulations under which the "sector-based work academy" workfare scheme was set up to help young unemployed people into work.
They say the requirement under the 2011 regulations to carry out mandatory work breaches article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits slavery and forced labour.
Ms Reilly, a geology graduate, said she was sent under her scheme to an employment skills training workshop for a week to improve attributes such as communication skills.
That was followed by five hours a day sweeping up and stacking and cleaning shelves at the Poundland near her home before having to attend a final week of training on the scheme.
A promised job interview never materialised.
In a second case, judicial review is being sought by a claimant who refused to take part in another scheme under the regulations called the "community action programme".
Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who are acting for both claimants, argue that the regulations wrongly left the design of the schemes to be decided by the secretary of state from time to time.
They contend that that was unlawful and the 1995 Jobseekers' Allowance Act required each scheme to be set out in the regulations.