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Detainees’ Forced Labor Claim Against GEO Class-Certified

by David Reutter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the certification of two subclasses in litigation alleging that GEO Group violated federal forced labor and Colorado unjust enrichment laws at its Aurora, Colorado, immigrant detention center.

The complaint alleged GEO implemented two programs that are at the heart of the case: (1) the Housing Unit Sanitation Policy, which required all detainees to clean their common living areas; and (2) the Voluntary Work Program (VWP), which compensated detainees $1 a day for performing various jobs.

The Sanitation Policy obligated every detainee to take a turn at cleaning common areas after meal service. Failure to participate could result in disciplinary action with sanctions that included initiation of criminal proceedings, solitary confinement or loss of privileges. The VWP paid participating detainees $1 per day as compensation for voluntarily performing jobs, such as painting, food services, laundry services, barbershop and sanitation.

After the district court denied GEO’s motion to dismiss, it granted the plaintiff’s motion to certify two subclasses consisting of persons under the two causes of action. The first cause was a claim under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 18 U.S.C. § 1589, which prohibits, in part, knowingly providing or obtaining the labor or services of a person by means or force or threat of force or physical restraint or by means of any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause the person to believe they would suffer serious harm or physical restraint if they did not provide labor or services.

The second claim was under Colorado’s unjust enrichment. It requires “proving” (1) the defendant received a benefit (2) at the plaintiff’s expense (3) under circumstances that would make it unjust for the defendant to retain the benefit without commensurate compensation.

The Tenth Circuit found the facts alleged for each claim have commonality, typicality, predominance, and superiority as required to be certified as a class action. The complaint alleged, and GEO conceded, that upon admission GEO provided notice to the class of its policies, and that provided the “glue” that holds the class together.

The district court’s order was affirmed.

See: Menocal v. The GEO Group, Inc. __ F.30__(10th Cir. 2018)


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Related legal case

Menocal v. The GEO Group, Inc