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By Daniel Wiessner
Oct 28 (Reuters) - A federal jury in Washington has found that private prison operator GEO Group Inc violated state minimum wage requirements by paying $1 a day to immigrant detainees who participated in work programs.
After a trial that lasted nearly three weeks, the jury in Tacoma, Washington, handed down a verdict https://tmsnrt.rs/3Eny4xH for the plaintiffs in consolidated 2017 lawsuits against GEO by a class of detainees and the office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Florida-based GEO did not respond to a request for comment.
The company had maintained that detainees at a 1,575-bed facility in Tacoma were not its employees under state law, and that federal regulations permitted the company to pay them far below the minimum wage to clean, do laundry, wash dishes and staff a barber shop and library.
A trial on damages in the lawsuit by detainees began on Thursday. The class is seeking millions of dollars in back pay dating back to 2014.
And in the next phase of the attorney general's case, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan will determine how much GEO must pay to the state for underpaying detainees. Washington's minimum wage is currently $13.69 an hour.
Ferguson in a statement said his office will ask Bryan to place that money into a fund dedicated to supporting people detained by GEO and workers in the community surrounding the detention center who may have lost out on job opportunities.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York; Editing by Mark Porter)