The Washington Supreme Courtroom ruled Thursday that civil immigration detainees employed in personal services have to be handled as authorized workers and are thus entitled to the minimal wage stipulated by the state.
The case, Ugochukwu Goodluck Nwauzor, et al v. The GEO Group, Inc., scrutinized the compensation practices of the GEO Group, a Florida-based personal detention operator that manages the Northwest ICE Processing Center (NIPC) in Tacoma, Washington. Detainees on the NIPC had been purportedly paid solely $1 per day, considerably decrease than Washington’s state minimal wage, which is about to extend to $16.28 in 2024.
Beforehand, the GEO Group’s compensation insurance policies had been scrutinized when a federal district court docket in Washington ruled towards the NIPC. The 2021 decision demanded that GEO pay $5.9 million in again wages and illegal positive factors accrued from the identical wage practices now deemed unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Courtroom.
Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson, writing for the unanimous court docket, famous that detained employees on the NIPC are certainly thought of workers and thus fall below the safety of Washington’s Minimal Wage Act (WMA). The federal government-institutions exemption within the MWA doesn’t apply to detainees in personal services, even when these services function below a state contract. He additional added:
[T]he legislature, by specifying that the exemption applies to individuals detained in “state, county or municipal” establishments, distinguished public establishments from personal establishments. And, as GEO states, if the legislature meant to additionally exclude individuals detained in personal establishments, it will have finished so explicitly.
Furthermore, the court docket addressed GEO Group’s unjust enrichment claims, affirming that damages awarded to the category of detainees don’t bar the state from searching for equitable reduction. This side of the ruling underscores the bigger implications for personal detention operators and their labor practices.
This choice aligns with broader legislative developments, together with Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s measures to section out for-profit detention facilities in Washington by 2025, impacting services just like the NIPC. Whereas federal policy directed by President Biden has moved to finish contracts with privately operated prison detention services, this order didn’t initially prolong to immigration detention facilities like these run by GEO Group below the Division of Homeland Safety.