A group of lawsuits that have been filed recently is looking to require mandatory travel pay for agricultural workers who use employer transportation. California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) is seeking compensation for any time that workers spend traveling between work and home while in transportation provided by employers. In response to the lawsuits, the California Farmers for Fairness (CFF) group was formed to organize opposition to the concept of mandatory travel pay.
“California agriculture simply cannot afford mandated travel pay,” said CFF spokesperson John Segale. “There have been so many anti-farming, anti-business efforts in California over the years, but we believe mandated travel pay may be the worst yet for farmers…Ag employers are already going to be hit with higher minimum wage costs and new overtime requirements in the coming years.”
The legal precedent for mandatory travel compensation was decided back in 2000. The court made a clear distinction between requiring an employee to use transportation provided by the employer and voluntary transportation that is available to employees for free. “What the CRLA has done is file four lawsuits seeking to redefine this ‘voluntary employer-provided transportation’ as ‘forced transportation,’ and this would create a new travel time compensation requirement,” Segale stated.
CFF is working to make ag employers aware of the potential economic impact that would be felt if a requirement for travel compensation was enacted. Segale noted labor costs are already projected to increase between four and ten percent by 2020, “when you add in mandatory travel pay it’s going to add an additional 12 to 31 percent increase in cost per worker, per day.”
Many farmers and farm labor contractors have been offering transportation to their employees on a voluntary basis for many years. The practice can help reduce the occurrences of workers traveling in unregistered or unsafe vehicles. “Not only is it convenient, and a preferred means, it’s also environmentally friendly to have a bus come in and pick up 40-50 workers and take them to a work site, rather than having 25-30 cars traveling around the region,” said Segale.
Listen to Segale’s interview below.