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ICE Detainees Awarded $17 Million by Jury in $1-a-Day Pay Case

Nov. 1, 2021, 3:34 PM

Private prison operator GEO Group LLC owes $17.28 million in back wages to immigrant detainees who received $1 per day for work done while in detention centers, a federal jury in Tacoma, Wash., said.

The jury submitted its damages verdict on Oct. 29, having already found GEO Group liable for Washington’s Minimum Wage Act violations earlier in the week. The jury reached its initial verdict on Oct. 27 following a 12-day trial.

The lawsuit challenged the legality of the Voluntary Work Program, which was developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and implemented by GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic Inc., another private prison contractor. Under the program, the prisons pay detainees $1 a day for doing laundry, cleaning, and preparing food.

Judge Robert J. Bryan of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington presided over the case.

Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, Open Sky Law PLLC, Menter Immigration Law PLLC, and R. Andrew Free of Nashville, Tenn., represent the detainees. Akerman LLP, Cooper & Kirk PLLC, Fox Rothschild LLP, and III Branches Law PLLC, and in-house counsel represent GEO. The state of Washington represents itself.

The case is Nwauzor v. GEO Group Inc., W.D. Wash., No. 3:17-cv-05769, 10/29/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Dailey at kdailey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com