By Bill Wright
Arizona prisoners are required to “engage in hard labor.” This does not make them employees. In Castle v. Eurofresh, Inc., No. 11-17947 (9th Cir. September 24, 2013), the plaintiff was a state prisoner. A private company contracted with the state for the services of a convict labor force and the plaintiff in this case worked for it. The plaintiff had an ankle injury, but was required to continue working and his request for breaks was denied. The court ruled that when work is required as part of the person’s punishment, the relationship with the company benefitting from the work was not “employment.” The relationship is “penological, not pecuniary.” That ruling didn’t help Arizona as much; the state might still be liable under the under title II of the ADA for failing to protect disabled prisoners from discrimination in benefits, services, programs or activities. Still, however much your employees might complain, they can rest assured there’s a difference between hard labor and wage slavery.