SEATTLE (AP) — A trial over whether the GEO Group must pay minimum wage — instead of $1 a day — to immigration detainees who perform tasks like cooking and cleaning at its for-profit detention center in Washington state has ended with a hung jury.
U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan in Tacoma declared a mistrial Thursday after jurors indicated they could not reach agreement following a two-week trial and about two days of deliberation.
Democratic Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued GEO in 2017, saying the company had unjustly profited by running the Northwest detention center in Tacoma on the backs of captive workers. GEO maintained that the detainees were not employees.
Washington appears to be the only state suing a private detention contractor for not paying minimum wage to immigration detainees. But similar lawsuits have been brought on behalf of immigration detainees in other states, including New Mexico, Colorado and California, seeking to force GEO and another major private detention company, CoreCivic, to pay minimum wage to detainees there.
The Colorado and California cases are pending, but a federal judge rejected the lawsuit brought by former detainees of CoreCivic’s Cibola detention center in New Mexico — a decision upheld by a federal appeals court panel in March.