Judge: State’s lawsuit over detainee pay can proceed

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A federal judge is allowing Washington state to proceed with its lawsuit seeking to force one of the nation’s largest privately run immigration detention centers to pay minimum wage for work done by detainees.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan on Wednesday denied the GEO Group’s motion to dismiss the case. The for-profit company runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

The judge said GEO failed to show that Washington state’s minimum wage law, as it applies to detainees, is pre-empted by federal law. He found that other arguments GEO made couldn’t be resolved this early in the case.

GEO had argued that Washington doesn’t have authority to bring the lawsuit. The Washington Attorney General’s Office said it’s entitled to enforce the minimum wage law against GEO just as it’s entitled to enforce it against any other company in Washington.

GEO pays detainees $1 per day for tasks such as janitorial or kitchen work. Washington’s minimum wage is $11 per hour.