LOS ANGELES (CN) - U.S. military contractors violated reams of labor laws working 18 men of Middle Eastern ancestry around the clock as "role playing actors" in imitation Iraqi and Afghani villages in the Mojave Desert, the men claim in court.
The role players had to stay on base 24 hours a day for up to 19 consecutive days, to stay in character at all times in "villages" without running water or electricity, and were frequently awakened from sleep, lead plaintiff Ratib Ahmadi says in the Dec. 28 federal lawsuit.
It happened at Fort Irwin Military Base and National Training Center, northeast of Barstow in the California desert, where the Pentagon trains soldiers "in fabricated Middle Eastern villages, other terrains, and simulated battlefields comprised of native role-players. These fabricated installations aid in the training of troops in urban Middle Eastern warfare prior to deployment," the complaint states.
The men claim the defendant military contractors who hired them for the Pentagon have been paid "millions of dollars" for the services they provided.
The defendants are CALNET, a Maryland corporation; Acclaim Technical Services, a California corporation; and Parsons Government Services, a Nevada corporation.
Ahmadi et al. say they were not paid for all hours worked, their sleeping facilities "were not adequate," without heat or air-conditioning, that they "suffered through the extreme temperatures of that region," and that it was difficult or impossible to get adequate, uninterrupted sleep during their 16- to 19-day "rotations."
The fabricated villages had mosques and traffic circles, where troops were trained for "urban Middle Eastern warfare," according to the complaint.
"Plaintiffs were under the control of defendants from the minute they were on the base," the men say, but they were paid for only 12 or 13 hours a day, without legally mandated breaks for meals or rest, and without "accurate itemized wage statement(s)."
Lead defendant CALNET's website lists several federal government agencies as clients, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Based in Virginia, the company claims to be one of the "fastest growing privately held" information technology companies.
In 2012, CALNET paid $18 million to settle Department of Justice accusations that it had inflated invoices and overhead costs at Guantanamo Bay.
Ahmadi et al. seek unpaid wages, with overtime, and damages for labor law violations, waiting time penalties, and unfair competition.
They are represented by Dennis Evans with Phillips Dayes National Employment Law Firm in Phoenix, who did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday.
CALNET did not respond to request for comment sent after hours Tuesday.
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