Farmers Have Rights to Refuse Property Access in Certain Instances

Brian German Industry

In light of recent developments, farmers are being encouraged to understand their rights when it comes to refusing property access. Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Julie Su recently announced on Twitter her intention to gain access to ag operations to speak with employees. Partner at Barsamian & Moody Law Firm, Patrick Moody explained that property owners can deny access for these purposes.

property access

“The basic rule is that governmental agencies frequently will have the right to come to enforce those statutes and those regulations that they are in charge of enforcing,” said Moody. “But this is not that kind of thing. This is something where she says she wants to come out and ‘educate’ people. She doesn’t have a mandate that allows her to come onto somebody’s private property to educate employees. So, absent a search warrant or a subpoena of some sort, she has no right to come on the property and do what she’s claiming she’s going to do.”

Groups that Su indicated are participating in the effort include Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project, California Rural Legal Assistance, and Lideres Campesinas. In this instance, farmers and field managers have the right to refuse access. Moody noted that it is important for supervisors in the field to understand their rights and not grant property access. “The thing that overrides a requirement of a subpoena or a warrant is consent. If they get consent to come in, they’re allowed to come in. So, we want to make sure that we’re not giving them consent where we don’t have to,” Moody explained.

Su noted that she will be working with Cal/OSHA and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to gain property access for the reported educational endeavors. Because regulatory bodies are involved, it can be intimidating when considering whether to grant consent to enter the property. Moody said that is important to be considerate but also firm when preventing access.

“If we are overly antagonistic with them, they can go get warrants and come back and do fine-tooth-comb inspections and look for things to cite you for,” Moody noted. “You want to be cordial, you want to be nice to them, but you don’t have to grant them consent.”  

Listen to the interview below.

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Brian German

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Multimedia Journalist for AgNet West