AG Ferguson: Jury finds GEO, for-profit operator of Tacoma ICE detention center, must pay detainee workers minimum wage

Thursday, October 28, 2021

OLYMPIA — In a victory for Washington, a federal jury determined that GEO Group Inc. (GEO), the for-profit operator of the Northwest ICE Processing Center, violates Washington’s minimum wage laws by paying detainee workers only $1 per day. 

The verdict concludes the first phase of a retrial in Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit against GEO.

After a two-and-a-half-week trial, the jury decided the multi-billion dollar company must pay all its workers Washington’s minimum wage of $13.69 or more. 

Now, it is up to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan to determine how much GEO unfairly gained from its wage law violations spanning more than 15 years. The Attorney General’s Office is requesting that this payment reimburse detainee workers and Tacoma community members.

“This multi-billion dollar corporation illegally exploited the people it detains to line its own pockets,” Ferguson said. “Today’s victory sends a clear message: Washington will not tolerate corporations that get rich violating the rights of the people.”

GEO uses immigration detainee labor to perform virtually all non-security functions at Tacoma’s Northwest ICE Processing Center, formerly known as the Northwest Detention Center. 

Since at least 2005, GEO has paid thousands of detainee workers $1 per day or, in some instances, extra food for labor that is necessary to keep the facility operational. Washington’s current minimum wage is $13.69 per hour.

Ferguson filed the lawsuit against GEO in September 2017, alleging that GEO’s practice violates Washington law by paying workers less than the minimum wage, and that GEO unjustly enriched itself by doing so.

Today, the jury determined GEO must pay workers no less than Washington’s minimum wage, whether the workers are detainees at the facility or those coming from the Tacoma area to seek jobs.

Read more here


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