The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has certified a class action on behalf of detained immigrants who allege that a private company and prison operator, Geo Group, forced them to work for $1 a day. Trial is set for June 2020.
The complaint alleges “systematic and unlawful wage theft” and was filed by detainees at Geo Group’s ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California. Under the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies, there has been a growing demand for detention centers to house those who have been detained after illegally crossing the U.S. border. Many spends months in the detention centers as they await legal proceedings to seek asylum in this country.
One class certified by the California court alleges that Geo violated the California Minimum Wage Law by paying detainee workers only $1 a day for labor; two classes allege the company violated federal and California laws by compelling detained immigrants at Adelanto to work; and a fourth class seeks to stop Geo’s forced labor practices at its 12 immigration detention centers nationwide.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 on behalf of Raul Novoa and other detainees, alleges that Geo Group uses “nearly-free labor” of detainees to perform maintenance services to maximize the company’s profits.
Work assignments at Adelanto include food service, laundry, dorm and hallway cleaning, floor crew, barbershop, intake, medical detail, paint detail and warehouse work, according to the lawsuit. Detainees who refuse work assignments face sanctions that include “interference with their immigration cases, solitary confinement, or punitive housing reassignments,” according to the complaint.
Geo Group is one of nation’s largest detention contractors and has been awarded new or extended contracts in 2019 with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Marshals Service. In South Florida, Geo operates the Broward Transitional Center, where teenagers who illegally entered the country have been incarcerated.
This blog is intended to provide information to the general public and to practitioners about developments that may impact Oregon class actions.