Federal Court Grants Plaintiff Win, Allows Adelanto Detention Center Detainees to Pursue Wage Theft and Forced Labor Claims Against GEO
Case moves forward on all counts against private, for-profit prison corporation
NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California this week allowed all five of the plaintiff’s original claims to move forward in Novoa v. The GEO Group, Inc., a class action lawsuit brought by Burns Charest LLP on behalf of thousands of detainees forced to work for a private, for-profit prison corporation.
“The court’s decision to deny GEO’s second motion to dismiss demonstrates that GEO is not above the law. The company simply cannot continue using nearly free detainee labor to enrich its own pocketbook,” said Korey Nelson, partner in the New Orleans offices of Burns Charest.
The lawsuit alleges that GEO violates state and federal law by forcing immigration detainees to clean, maintain and operate the Adelanto (California) Detention Center for only $1 per day. According to the complaint, GEO’s policies and practices violate the state’s minimum wage law and the California Unfair Competition Law, as well as federal and state Trafficking Victims Protection Acts prohibiting modern-day slavery.
“The court’s decision marks the 10th time a federal judge has refused to slam shut the courthouse doors on vulnerable detained immigrants who perform valuable labor while locked inside private immigration prisons,” said R. Andrew Free, a Nashville-based attorney who represents plaintiffs in this and other labor cases against private prison companies. “Our client and the class he seeks to represent look forward to their day in court where they’ll present overwhelming evidence that GEO’s labor practices at Adelanto run afoul not just of federal and state law, but also of basic human decency.”
“Private, for-profit prison corporations like GEO cannot continue to benefit from the forced labor of detainees in their care,” says Tina Wolfson of Ahdoot & Wolfson, PC. “The Central District of California’s decision is an important step in reaffirming that forced labor is beneath the dignity of this great nation.”
The lawsuit was filed in December 2017 by Burns Charest, the Law Office of R. Andrew Free, Ahdoot & Wolfson, PC, and Al Otro Lado.