The GEO Group Inc. has entered into a companywide settlement agreement with the Labor Department requiring the company to implement comprehensive procedures and policies to protect its workers from workplace violence in every correctional and adult detention facility that it manages in the United States.
The Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group “is the first fully integrated equity real estate investment trust specializing in the design, development, financing and operation of correctional, detention and community reentry facilities worldwide,” the company states on its website. The GEO Group has 18,000 employees who manage 95 facilities and approximately 73,000 beds around the world.
"This corporatewide settlement agreement will have a far-reaching effect and impact on correctional officers and other staff nationwide," said Teresa Harrison, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta. "This agreement is the first of its kind in the corrections industry that addresses the hazards associated with workplace violence."
In June 2012, OSHA cited the company for workplace safety violations at a prison facility that it managed in Meridian, Miss. The citations included a willful violation for the company’s alleged failure to provide adequate staffing of correctional officers, fix malfunctioning cell-door locks and provide required training and PPE to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites and other injuries. The company fought the willful citation, sending the case to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under a three-year agreement, the willful citation has been reclassified as a serious violation and the company will pay a $13,600 fine. As part of the agreement, the company must hire a third-party consultant to develop and maintain a workplace violence prevention program and conduct onsite workplace violence safety audits at each of the 42 correctional and adult detention facilities that it manages across the country.
The GEO Group also must create a corporate-level workplace violence coordinator position and develop a workplace safety committee at each of its facilities. In unionized facilities covered under the agreement, the committees will include representatives from both labor and management.
The Labor Department’s Atlanta Office of the Solicitor litigated the case. OSHA’s Jackson Area Office conducted the investigation.