Thursday, October 23, 2014

GEO Sued for Minimum Wage and Forced Labor Law Violations, and Unjust Enrichment

Lawsuit seeks $5 million in minimum wage law damages and also compensatory and exemplary damages for Forced Labor (18 U.S.C. § 1589), 
and Unjust Enrichment 

American Friends Service Committee, May, 2010 vigil at GEO facility in Aurora, Colorado, sign reads, "We are not the NEW SLAVES"
Yesterday, Alejandro Menoca, Marcos Brambila, Grisel Xahuentitla, Hugo Hernandez, Lourdes, Argueta, Jesus Gaytan, Olga Alexaklina, Dagaberto Vizguerra, and Demetrio Valerga on their own behalf and others similarly situated filed a complaint informing a federal judge that their guards were breaking the law.

The complaint, filed by an intrepid team of lawyers who spent extensive time interviewing detainees at the GEO facility in Aurora, Colorado, states:
In the course of their employment by GEO, Plaintiffs and others scrubbed bathrooms, showers, toilets, and windows throughout GEO’s Aurora facility. They cleaned and maintained GEO’s on-site medical facility, cleaned the medical facility’s toilets, floors and windows, cleaned patient rooms and medical staff offices, swept, mopped, stripped, and waxed the floors of the medical facility, did medical facility laundry, swept, mopped, stripped, and waxed floors throughout the facility, did detainee laundry, prepared and served detainee meals, assisted in preparing catered meals for law enforcement events sponsored by GEO, performed clerical work for GEO, prepared clothing for newly arriving detainees, provided barber services to detainees, ran the facility’s law library, cleaned the facility’s intake area and solitary confinement unit, deep cleaned and prepared vacant portions of the facility for newly arriving detainees, cleaned the facility’s warehouse, and maintained the exterior and landscaping of the GEO building, inter alia.
 The complaint also includes violations of a federal law prohibiting Forced Labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1589:
5.  GEO or its agents also randomly selected six detainees per pod each day and forced them to clean the pods. In the handbook that GEO distributed to the detainees, GEO announced a “Housing Unit Sanitation” policy informing the people held at the facility that “[e]ach and every detainee must participate in the facility’s sanitation program.”
6. GEO or its agents forced Plaintiffs and other civil immigration detainees to clean the facility’s pods for no pay and under threat of solitary confinement as punishment for any refusal to work.
 And the complaint references Colorado Common Law prohibiting Unjust Enrichment.  In precise and riveting language the 21 page brief brilliantly lays out the legal problems with the private prison industry's business model.

 The attorneys who filed this lawsuit are Brandt Milstein, Boulder, CO; Andrew Turner, Denver, CO; Alexander Hood, Golden, CO; Hans Meyer, Denver, CO; and Andrew Free, Nashville, TN.

I have been filing FOIA requests on this topic for several years and Andrew Free is currently representing me in extricating additional material for use in a working paper that will be revised for publication next year in the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal.  For more research on related violations, please go here.

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