December 2, 2019

Federal Court Certifies Classes in Immigrant Detainees’ Forced Labor and Wage Theft Case Against The GEO Group

RIVERSIDE, CA – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has certified four classes of detained immigrants who allege claims of forced labor and wage theft against GEO, one of the country’s largest for-profit prison companies.

One class alleges that GEO violates the California Minimum Wage Law by paying detainee workers at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center only $1 per day for their labor; two classes allege that GEO violates federal and California forced labor statutes by compelling detained immigrants to work at Adelanto; and a fourth class seeks to stop GEO’s forced labor practices at 12 of its civil immigration detention facilities nationwide.

“Class certification is perhaps the only way thousands of current and former detainees can vindicate their rights against GEO,” said Daniel Charest, managing partner of Burns Charest LLP, which with co-counsel represents the individual plaintiffs and the four classes.  “This decision marks a crucial step toward achieving justice for these vulnerable people by holding GEO accountable for its practices of profiting through forcing detainees to work.”

Class representatives Raul Novoa, Ramon Mancia, and Jaime Campos Fuentes celebrate the class certification ruling with their legal team—Daniel Charest, Lydia Wright, R. Andrew Free, and Ted Maya—and supporters

In granting class certification, the district court found that plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence that GEO operates several uniform policies or practices aimed at obtaining free or nearly-free detainee labor. Some detained immigrants work for $1 per day or extra food. Under GEO’s Housing Unit Sanitation Policies, the company requires all detained immigrants to work for free or face steep sanctions, including interference with their immigration cases, solitary confinement, or punitive housing reassignments.

“GEO’s business model is built on the systemic coercion of detained immigrants because the facilities could not operate without virtually-free labor,” said Lydia Wright of Burns Charest. “On behalf of the classes they now represent, the four named plaintiffs look forward to proving their case at trial and ending GEO’s longstanding practice of exploiting detainee labor while pocketing taxpayer dollars.”

The classes are represented by Burns Charest, along with co-counsel R. Andrew Free and Ahdoot and Wolfson, PC. The case is styled Novoa, et al. v. The GEO Group, Inc., Case No. 5:17-cv-02514 (C.D. Cal.). Trial is currently set for June 2020 in Riverside, California.

To read the Court’s order granting class certification, click here. To read the Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification, click here.