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Staten v. The GEO Group Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

July 1, 2019

THE GEO GROUP, INC., Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant GEO Group Inc.'s (“GEO”) Motion to Compel Production of Documents and Metadata. Dkt. 215. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the file herein.

         This case arises out of GEO's alleged failure to compensate immigration detainees at the Northwest Detention Center (“NDC”), a private detention center, in accord with the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”). Dkt. 1.


         A. FACTS

         GEO is a private corporation that has owned and operated the NWDC, a 1, 575-bed detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, since 2005. Dkt. 156, at 8-9. GEO operates the NWDC based on a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Dkts. 16-2, and 19. Under this contract, GEO provides “detention management services including the facility, detention officers, management personnel, supervision, manpower, training certifications, licenses . . . equipment, and supplies” for immigration detainees awaiting resolution of immigration matters. Dkt. 19, at 49. GEO is also required by the contract to manage a Voluntary Work Program (“VWP”). Dkt. 19, at 86. Detainees who participate in the VWP collect and distribute laundry, prepare and serve food, clean, paint interior walls, and use electric sheers to cut hair. Dkt. 184-1, at 8-19. GEO pays detainees who participate in the VWP at $1 per day. Dkt. 156, at 10. In accord with the contract with ICE, GEO agreed to comply with “[a]pplicable federal, state and local labor laws and codes.” Dkt. 19, at 48.


         On September 20, 2017, the State filed this case in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court. Dkt. 1-1. The Complaint maintains that the GEO-ICE Contract at least allows for, if not requires, GEO to compensate detainees working in the VWP commensurate with the State MWA. Id., at ¶¶3.3, 3.4, 5.1-6.6. The State alleges that GEO has been unjustly enriched by compensating detainees below that required by state law. Id. In its “quasi-sovereign interest, ” the State makes a claim against GEO for unjust enrichment, and seeks: (1) an order requiring GEO to disgorge its unjust enrichment from compensating detainees below the minimum wage, (2) declaratory relief that GEO is an “employer” subject to the MWA when managing detainee employees, and (3) injunctive relief for GEO to be enjoined from paying detainees less than the minimum wage. Id.

         In its Answer, GEO makes a counterclaim for unjust enrichment, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and asserts thirteen affirmative defenses. Dkt 34.

         On February 28, 2018, GEO's counterclaim for unjust enrichment was dismissed. Dkt. 44. Further, State's motion to strike the affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, failure to join necessary parties (Washington Department of Labor and Industries (“L & I”) and ICE), and ripeness, justiciability, and a portion of the offset defense, was denied without prejudice; no finding was made as to the affirmative defense of preemption. Id. The remaining affirmative defenses were stricken. Id.

         On August 30, 2018, GEO filed a motion for an order compelling the State to produce information from various State agencies related to State work programs, maintaining that the information was “extremely relevant to GEO's affirmative defenses of unclean hands and laches.” Dkt. 113, at 6. The State opposed the motion, arguing that the State Agencies were not parties to the case and that the State agencies were better positioned to respond themselves. Dkt. 118.

         On October 2, 2018, GEO's motion to compel was granted. Dkt. 133. The State was ordered to produce “all relevant, responsive, non-privileged information held by all divisions of the [Attorney General's Office (“AGO”)] and agencies of the State.” Id., at 7. The order provided that it made “no findings as to the merits of specific discovery requests.” Id. The October 2, 2018 order further ordered that as to “all discovery from AGO divisions, the State should produce metadata in native format, without summarizing or otherwise manipulating the information.” Id., at 7-8.

         On May 13, 2019, GEO's affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands and failure to join L & I and ICE were dismissed. Dkt. 202.

         C. ...

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