On Wednesday, October 27, 2021 a federal jury determined that the GEO Group must pay minimum wage to immigration detainees who work in the detention center in Washington State. The GEO Group was paying the immigration detainees who preformed tasks such as cooking and cleaning only $1 a day. This was the second trial over the issue, a deadlocked jury ended the first trial in June of this year. Now the jury will determine how much the immigration detainees of these facilities who have been working for $1 a day are owed in backpay. The U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan will determine how much the GEO Group has to pay the state of Washington for unjustly enriching itself.
GEO insists that the detainees are not technically employees under the Washington Minimum Wage Act because the detention facility is private and not a state, county or municipal detention center, thus its detainees are not residents of Washington. GEO also called out the state of Washington for forcing the company to pay its detainees minimum wage when the state itself does not pay minimum wage to its working inmates.
The GEO detention center in Washington is one of the largest immigration jails in the US and can hold up to 1,575 detainees. In 2018 GEO made $18.6 million in profits from the Washington facility alone. It would have costed the company $3.4 million to pay its working detainees minimum wage.
Similar lawsuits have been brought up in other states against private detention companies, but none of have been as successful as the Washington trial.
View the Associated Press article on this trial here.
This blog post does not serve as legal advice and does not establish any client-attorney privilege. Do not take any action based on the information contained in this post without consulting a qualified immigration attorney. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team directly.
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