Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that his office has filed a lawsuit against GEO Group, Inc., which operates Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), for allegedly not paying its workers minimum wage.
The AG's office released a statement alleging that "GEO has used immigration detainee labor to perform all non-security functions at their Tacoma facility, and since at least 2005 has paid thousands of detainee workers $1 per day or, in some instances, snacks and extra food for labor that is necessary to keep the facility operating."
"A multi-billion dollar corporation is trying to get away with paying its workers $1 per day," Ferguson said at a news conference Wednesday. "That shouldn't happen in America, and I will not tolerate it happening in Washington."
Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center is the only private detention facility in the state, and is the fourth-largest immigration detention center in the country. Individuals who are held at the facility are waiting to undergo immigration proceedings.
GEO has operated NWDC on behalf of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2005.
GEO's NWDC is only one of its 141 correctional facilities. The company saw roughly $2 billion in revenue in 2016 from all its facilities.
The AG’s lawsuit was filed in Pierce County Superior Court, and is the first of its kind by a state AG. The lawsuit is asking the superior court to order GEO to comply with Washington's minimum wage laws; pay the state its costs from bringing the lawsuit; and to give up the profits it made by not paying its detainees minimum wage for several years.