California Farm Labor Laws


California farm labor laws can be found in Cal Health & Saf Code §§ 17001 through 17062.5, Cal Health & Saf Code §§ 50710 through 50715, Cal Lab Code §§ 1140 through 1167 and Cal Lab Code §§ 1682 through 1699.  Employee Housing Act is enumerated in Cal Health & Saf Code §§ 17001 through 17062.5.  Cal Health & Saf Code §§ 50710 through 50715 deal with special housing progam for migratory workers.  Cal Lab Code §§ 1140 through 1167 deal with agricultural labor relations.  Laws regarding farm labor contractors are detailed in Cal Lab Code §§ 1682 through 1699.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17021, a building permit, grading permit, or other approval from a city or county building department is required for the rehabilitation of real property improvements that are or will be employee housing for agricultural employees.  A permit is also required from a city or county health department for the operation, construction, or repair of a water system or waste disposal system servicing employee housing for agricultural employees.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code §17021.6, Any employee housing consisting of no more than 36 beds in a group quarters or 12 units or spaces designed for use by a single family or household shall be deemed an agricultural land use designation.  No conditional use permit, zoning variance, or other zoning clearance shall be required of this employee housing that is not required of any other agricultural activity in the same zone.  Such employee housing shall not be subject to any business taxes, local registration fees, use permit fees, or other fees to which other agricultural activities in the same zone are not likewise subject.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17021.7, mobile homes and recreational vehicles used to house agricultural employees shall be maintained in conformity with the applicable requirements of the Mobilehome Parks Act.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17022.5, the Department of Housing and Community Development shall adopt, and make available to the public, model or prototype plans for several types of employee housing, including barracks, seasonal housing, family housing, and recreational vehicle parks.  Any person intending to construct employee housing may adopt one or more of these models as the plans for the proposed housing.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17030, a permit from the enforcement agency, the Department of Housing and Community Development is required to operate employee housing.  Permits to operate employee housing are issued annually and may prescribe conditions on the use or occupancy of the employee housing.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17030.5, a permit to operate employee housing consisting only of permanent single-family housing may, when approved by the enforcement agency, shall  be issued for a longer period of time not to exceed five years.  Whenever the enforcement agency issues a permit for a period of time longer than one year, it shall make written findings indicating the reasons for issuing such a permit.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17031, the operator of employee housing on a dairy farm consisting only of permanent single-family employee housing, may request an exemption from the requirement of obtaining an annual permit to operate.  Whenever the enforcement agency issues an exemption from the requirement of obtaining a permit to operate, it shall make written findings indicating the reasons for issuing the exemption.  Exemptions shall be reviewed annually by the enforcement agency.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17032, application for permit shall be made to the enforcement agency at least 45 days prior to the date of initial occupancy and shall be on the forms supplied by the enforcement agency.  Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17034, if any person who holds an annual permit to operate employee housing violates building standards published in the State Building Standards Code relating to employee housing, the other regulations adopted or conditions of the permit, the enforcement agency shall proceed according to § 17055 immediately upon discovery of such a violation.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17050, the Department of Housing and Community Development may promulgate rules and regulations to interpret Employee Housing Act.  Upon written notice to the Department of Housing and Community Development, any city, county, or city and county may assume the responsibility for the enforcement of Employee Housing Act, for the building standards published in the California Building Standards Code relating to employee housing, and for the other regulations adopted pursuant to the Act following approval by the department for that assumption.  The enforcement agency may enter public or private properties to determine whether there exists any employee housing.  The agency may enter and inspect all employee housing where so ever situated, and inspect all accommodations, equipment, or paraphernalia connected therewith.  The agency may also enter and inspect the land adjacent to the employee housing to determine whether the sanitary and other requirements, the building standards published in the California Building Standards Code relating to employee housing, and the other rules and regulations adopted pursuant to the Act have been or are being complied with.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17054, the Attorney General, upon the request of the Director of Housing and Community Development, shall conduct such investigations as may be necessary to determine whether any violation of any provision of the Act has occurred.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17055, any person residing in employee housing may file an administrative complaint orally or in writing with the enforcement agency.  If a civil action has not been filed by the enforcement agency within 21 days after receipt of the complaint, the complainant may bring a civil action for injunctive or declaratory relief and appropriate statutory damages, civil penalties, actual damages, penalties, and other remedies which arise from any violation of the Act, building standards published in the State Building Standards Code relating to employee housing, regulations adopted pursuant to the Act, or conditions of the permit.  If the enforcement agency certifies that the employee housing is in compliance with the Act and regulations, no injunctive relief will be granted.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17056, the department shall establish procedures and devote resources to locating and prosecuting the most serious violators of the Act and those who refuse to apply for or obtain permits to operate, as determined by the department.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17060, any employee housing which does not conform to the Act, building standards published in the State Building Standards Code relating to employee housing, the other regulations adopted pursuant to this Act, or conditions of the permit, is a public nuisance and, if not made to conform within five days or within a longer period of time, not to exceed 30 days, which may be allowed by the enforcement agency after written notice, shall be abated by proper action brought in the superior court of the county in which the employee housing or greater portion thereof is situated.  If any violation of the provisions constitutes an immediate or material hazard to the health or safety of the occupants of employee housing, it shall be remedied within five days after written notice by the enforcement agency, or shorter time in case of emergency.  In the event of failure to comply, the Attorney General, or the attorney for the enforcement agency, shall, by verified complaint setting forth the facts, apply to the superior court for an order granting the relief for which the action or proceeding is brought until the entry of a final judgment or order.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17061, any person who violates, or causes another person to violate, any provision of the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000, or imprisonment for not more than 180 days, or both, for each violation, provided that the violation does not cause personal injury to any person.  If the violation causes personal injury to any person, the person who violates is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not less than $4,000, but not exceeding $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment for each violation, or each day of a continuing violation, causing personal injury.  Any person who violates any provision of the Act shall be liable for a civil penalty of not less than $300, nor more than $1,000, for each violation or for each day of a continuing violation.  The amount of the civil penalty may be doubled, to a limit of not more than $10,000, for each violation or for each day of a continuing violation if the court determines that the violation was willful, or if the court finds that the person received notice from an enforcement agency within the prior three years regarding any employee housing owned or operated by that person, and the violations are so extensive and of such a nature that the immediate health and safety of the residents or the public is endangered or has been endangered.

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 17062, any state or local agency which participated in the investigation and enforcement pursuant to the Act shall be reimbursed for its investigative and legal costs prior to and subsequent to the judgment.  In appointing a receiver, the court shall consider whether the owner has been afforded a reasonable opportunity to correct the conditions cited in the notice of violation.  If a receiver is appointed, the owner and his or her agent of the substandard employee housing shall be enjoined from collecting rents from the tenants, interfering with the receiver in the operation of the substandard employee housing, and encumbering or transferring the substandard employee housing or real property upon which the employee housing is situated.  The receiver shall be entitled to the same fees, commissions, and necessary expenses as receivers in actions to foreclose mortgages.  If the conditions of the employee housing or the repair or rehabilitation thereof significantly affect the safe and sanitary use of the substandard employee housing by any tenant, to the extent that the tenant cannot safely reside in his or her unit, then the receiver shall provide relocation.

If the court finds that the employee housing is in a condition that substantially endangers the health and safety of residents, upon the entry of any order or judgment, the court shall do all of the following:

(1) Order the owner to pay all reasonable and actual costs of the enforcement agency including, but not limited to, inspection costs, investigation costs, enforcement costs, attorney’s fees or costs, and all costs of prosecution.
(2) Order that the local enforcement agency shall provide the tenants with notice of the court order or judgment.
(3) Order that, if the owner undertakes repairs or rehabilitation as a result of being cited for a notice, and if the conditions of the premises or the repair or rehabilitation thereof significantly affect the safe and sanitary use of the premises by any lawful tenant, so that the tenant cannot safely reside in the premises, then the owner shall provide or pay relocation benefits to each lawful tenant.  These benefits shall consist of actual reasonable moving and storage costs and relocation compensation.

Pursuant to Special Housing Program for Migratory Workers, the Director of Housing and Community Development may contract with school districts, housing authorities, health agencies, and other appropriate local public and private nonprofit agencies, for the procurement, or construction of housing or shelter and to obtain services for migratory agricultural workers in the fields of education and sanitation, to obtain day care services for the children of those workers, and the director may adopt regulations as the director deems necessary in order to provide that housing service[i].

Pursuant to Cal Health & Saf Code § 50712.5, the Department of Housing and Community Development, through its Office of Migrant Services shall assist in the development, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or operation of migrant farm labor centers.  The department shall encourage and assist in the development of family units, or dormitory-style units, as may be appropriate, in migrant farm labor centers in any county or counties where there is a substantial unmet need for migrant farmworker housing.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1141, an Agricultural Labor Relations Board is created in the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.  The board is empowered to prevent any person from engaging in any unfair labor practice[ii].  The board has access to for the purpose of examination, and the right to copy, any evidence of any person being investigated or proceeded against that relates to any matter under investigation or in question[iii].  The members of the board or their designees or their duly authorized agents shall have the right of free access to all places of labor.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1152, employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of continued employment.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1153, it shall be an unfair labor practice for an agricultural employer to interfere with agricultural employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in §1152 and to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.  It shall also be an unfair labor practice for an employer to discharge or otherwise discriminate against an employee because s/he has filed charges or given testimony and to refuse to bargain collectively in good faith with labor organizations.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1154 it shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor organization or its agents to restrain or coerce agricultural employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in § 1152 and in the selection of his or her representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1155.2, to bargain collectively in good faith is the performance of the mutual obligation of the agricultural employer and the representative of the agricultural employees to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, or the negotiation of an agreement, or any questions arising thereunder, and the execution of a written contract incorporating any agreement reached if requested by either party, but such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession.  Representatives designated or selected by a secret ballot for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the agricultural employees in the bargaining unit shall be the exclusive representatives of all the agricultural employees in such unit for the purpose of collective bargaining[iv].

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1160.2, whenever it is charged that any person has engaged in any unfair labor practice, the board shall have power to issue and cause to be served upon such person a complaint stating the charges in that respect, and containing a notice of hearing before the board, at a place therein fixed, not less than five days after the serving of such complaint.  The person so complained against shall have the right to file an answer to the original or amended complaint and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint.  The proceeding shall be conducted in accordance with the Evidence Code.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1160.8, any person aggrieved by the final order of the board may obtain a review of such order in the court of appeal having jurisdiction over the county wherein the unfair labor practice in question was alleged to have been engaged in, or wherein such person resides or transacts business, by filing in such court a written petition requesting that the order of the board be modified or set aside.  Such petition shall be filed with the court within 30 days from the date of the issuance of the board’s order. Upon the filing of such petition, the court shall cause notice to be served upon the board and thereupon shall have jurisdiction of the proceeding.  The board shall file in the court the record of the proceeding, certified by the board within 10 days after the clerk’s notice unless such time is extended by the court for good cause shown.  The court shall have jurisdiction to grant to the board such temporary relief or restraining order it deems just and proper and in like manner to make and enter a decree enforcing, modifying and enforcing as so modified, or setting aside in whole or in part, the order of the board.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1161, the Agricultural Employee Relief Fund is created as a special fund in the State Treasury and is continuously appropriated to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The board shall act as a trustee of all moneys deposited in the fund.  Any monetary relief ordered by the board to be paid by an employer to an employee shall be collected by the board on behalf of the employee and shall be remitted to the employee for whom the board collected the money.  Moneys in the fund shall be used by the board to pay employees the unpaid balance of any monetary relief ordered by the board to be paid by an employer to an employee.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1164, an agricultural employer or a labor organization certified as the exclusive bargaining agent of a bargaining unit of agricultural employees may file with the board, at any time following (1) 90 days after a renewed demand to bargain by an agricultural employer or a labor organization certified prior to January 1, 2003, (2) 180 days after an initial request to bargain by an agricultural employer or a labor organization certified after January 1, 2003, a declaration that the parties have failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement and a request that the board issue an order directing the parties to mandatory mediation and conciliation of their issues.  Upon receipt of a declaration, the board shall immediately issue an order directing the parties to mandatory mediation and conciliation of their issues.  The parties shall select a mediator from the list supplied by the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service or by the American Arbitration Association or the Federal Mediation Service within seven days of receipt of the list.  Upon appointment, the mediator shall immediately schedule meetings at a time and location reasonably accessible to the parties.  Within 21 days, the mediator shall file a report with the board that resolves all of the issues between the parties and establishes the final terms of a collective bargaining agreement, including all issues subject to mediation and all issues resolved by the parties prior to the certification of the exhaustion of the mediation process.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1164.3, either party, within seven days of the filing of the report by the mediator, may petition the board for review of the report. The board, within 10 days of receipt of a petition, may accept for review those portions of the petition for which a prima facie case has been established that (1) a provision of the collective bargaining agreement set forth in the mediator’s report is unrelated to wages, hours, or other conditions of employment, (2) a provision of the collective bargaining agreement set forth in the mediator’s report is based on clearly erroneous findings of material fact, or (3) a provision of the collective bargaining agreement set forth in the mediator’s report is arbitrary or capricious in light of the mediator’s findings of fact.  If it finds grounds exist to grant review, the board shall order the provisions of the report that are not the subject of the petition for review into effect as a final order of the board.  If the board does not accept a petition for review or no petition for review is filed, then the mediator’s report shall become a final order of the board.

The board shall issue a decision concerning the petition and if it determines that a provision of the collective bargaining agreement contained in the mediator’s report violates the provisions of subdivision (a), it shall, within 21 days, issue an order requiring the mediator to modify the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.  The mediator shall meet with the parties for additional mediation for a period not to exceed 30 days.  At the expiration of this mediation period, the mediator shall prepare a second report resolving any outstanding issues.  The second report shall be filed with the board.  Either party, within seven days of the filing of the mediator’s second report, may petition the board for a review of the mediator’s second report pursuant to the procedures specified in subdivision (a).  If no petition is filed, the mediator’s report shall take immediate effect as a final order of the board.  If a petition is filed, the board shall issue an order confirming the mediator’s report and order it into immediate effect, unless it finds that the report is subject to review for any of the grounds specified in subdivision (a), in which case the board shall determine the issues and shall issue a final order of the board.

Either party, within seven days of the filing of the report by the mediator, may petition the board to set aside the report if a prima facie case is established that any of the following have occurred: (1) the mediator’s report was procured by corruption, fraud, or other undue means, (2) there was corruption in the mediator, or (3) the rights of the petitioning party were substantially prejudiced by the misconduct of the mediator.  If the board finds that any of these grounds exist, the board shall within 10 days vacate the report of the mediator and shall order the selection and appointment of a new mediator, and an additional mediation period of 30 days, pursuant to § 1164.  Within 60 days after the order of the board takes effect, either party or the board may file an action to enforce the order of the board, in the superior court for the County of Sacramento or in the county where either party’s principal place of business is located.  No final order of the board shall be stayed during any appeal , unless the court finds that (1) the appellant will be irreparably harmed by the implementation of the board’s order, and (2) the appellant has demonstrated a likelihood of success on appeal.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1164.9, no court of California, except the court of appeal or the Supreme Court, shall have jurisdiction to review, reverse, correct, or annul any order or decision of the board to suspend or delay the execution or operation thereof, or to enjoin, restrain, or interfere with the board in the performance of its official duties, as provided by law and the rules of court.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1165, suits for violation of contracts between an agricultural employer and an agricultural labor organization representing agricultural employees, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any superior court having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1166.2, any individual employed as a supervisor shall not be prohibited from becoming or remaining a member of a labor organization.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1682.3, farm labor contractor includes any day hauler. Day hauler means any person who is employed by a farm labor contractor to transport, or who for a fee transports, by motor vehicle, workers to render personal services in connection with the production of any farm products to, for, or under the direction of a third person[v].  Farm labor contractor does not include a commercial packing house engaged in both the harvesting and the packing of citrus fruit or soft fruit for a client or customer[vi].

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1683, no person shall act as a farm labor contractor until a license to do so has been issued to him by the Labor Commissioner, and unless such license is in full force and effect and is in his possession.  The Labor Commissioner shall, by regulation, provide a means of issuing duplicate licenses in case of loss of the original license or any other appropriate instances.  The Labor Commissioner, upon proper notice and hearing, may refuse to grant a license[vii].

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1690, the Labor Commissioner may revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew any license when it is shown that any of the following have occurred:

  • The licensee or any agent of the licensee has violated or failed to comply with any of the provisions of the chapter, Farm Labor Contractor under the Labor Code.
  • The licensee has made any misrepresentations or false statements in his or her application for a license.
  • The conditions under which the license was issued have changed or no longer exist.
  • The licensee, or his or her agent, has violated, or has willfully aided or abetted any person in the violation of, or failed to comply with, any law of the State of California regulating the employment of employees in agriculture, the payment of wages to farm employees, or the conditions, terms, or places of employment affecting the health and safety of farm employees, which is applicable to the business, activities, or operations of the licensee in his or her capacity as a farm labor contractor.
  • The licensee, or any agent of the licensee, has failed to comply with any provisions of the Vehicle Code pertaining to a farm labor vehicle, under the licensee’s control, or has allowed a farm labor vehicle under his or her control to be operated by a driver without a valid driver’s license and certificate.
  • The licensee has been found, by a court or the Secretary of Labor, to have violated any provision of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, provided that the licensee is required to register as a farm labor contractor pursuant to federal law.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1695, every licensee shall carry his or her license and proof of registration with him or her at all times and exhibit the same to all persons with whom s/he intends to deal in his or her capacity as a farm labor contractor prior to so dealing.  The licensee shall file at the United States Post Office serving the address of the licensee, as noted on the face of his or her license, with the office of the Labor Commissioner, and with the agricultural commissioner of the county or counties in which the labor contractor has contracted with a grower, a correct change of address immediately upon each occasion the licensee permanently moves his or her address.  The licensee shall promptly when due, pay or distribute to the individuals entitled thereto, all moneys or other things of value entrusted to the licensee by any third person.  The licensee shall comply on his or her part with the terms and provisions of all legal and valid agreements and contracts entered into between licensee in his or her capacity as a farm labor contractor and third persons.  The licensee shall have available for inspection by his or her employees and by the grower with whom s/he has contracted, a written statement in English and Spanish showing the rate of compensation s/he receives from the grower and the rate of compensation s/he is paying to his or her employees for services rendered to, for, or under the control of the grower.  The licensee shall take out a policy of insurance in an amount satisfactory to the commissioner, which insures the licensee against liability for damage to persons or property arising out of the licensee’s operation of, or ownership of, any vehicle or vehicles for the transportation of individuals in connection with his or her business, activities, or operations as a farm labor contractor.  The licensee shall have displayed prominently at the site where the work is to be performed and on all vehicles used by the licensee for the transportation of employees, the rate of compensation the licensee is paying to his or her employees for their services.  The licensee shall register annually with the agricultural commissioner of the county or counties in which the labor contractor has contracted with a grower.  The licensee shall provide information and training on applicable laws and regulations governing worker safety, or regulating the terms and conditions of agricultural employment, to each crew leader, foreman, or other employee whose duties include the supervision, direction, or control of any agricultural worker on behalf of a licensee, or pursuant to, a contract or agreement for agricultural services entered into with a licensee.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1696.8, the director shall establish a Farm Labor Contractor Enforcement Unit.  The unit shall develop a program to provide technical assistance to a district attorney’s office that establishes a local farm labor contractor enforcement unit.  A local farm labor contractor enforcement unit shall coordinate its enforcement efforts with the Rural Crime Prevention Program in its jurisdiction.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1697, any person who violates the chapter, Farm Labor Contractors, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both.  The aggrieved person may also:

1) Bring a civil action for injunctive relief or damages, or both, against a farm labor contractor or unlicensed farm labor contractor who violates the chapter and, upon prevailing, shall recover reasonable attorney’s fees.
2) Enforce the liability on the farm labor contractor’s bond.

Any farm labor contractor who engages in farm labor contracting activities after his or her license has been suspended or revoked is guilty of an offense punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment for not less than six months and not more than one year, or both.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1697.1, no person shall make false, fraudulent, or misleading representations that employment in the growing or producing of farm products, or an employee benefit related to that employment, will be jeopardized unless an individual or his or her family members pay a fee or other thing of value for transportation by that person to or from the business or worksite of an employer.  Any person who violates the provision, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 and not less than $500, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 30 days, or both.  The aggrieved person may bring a civil action for injunctive relief, damages, or both.  If the court finds that the defendant has violated the provision, it shall award actual damages, plus an amount equal to treble the amount of actual damages, or $500 per violation, whichever is greater.  The court shall also grant a prevailing plaintiff reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Pursuant to Cal Lab Code § 1698, fines collected for violations shall be paid into the Farmworker Remedial Account.  Of the moneys collected for licenses issued pursuant to this chapter,$150 of each annual license fee shall be deposited in the Farmworker Remedial Account, $350 of each annual license fee shall be expended by the Labor Commissioner to fund the Farm Labor Contractor Enforcement Unit and the Farm Labor Contractor License Verification Unit, both within the department, and the remaining money shall be paid into the State Treasury and credited to the General Fund.

[i] Cal Health & Saf Code § 50710.

[ii] Cal Lab Code § 1160.

[iii] Cal Lab Code § 1151.

[iv] Cal Lab Code § 1156.

[v] Cal Lab Code § 1682.3.

[vi] Cal Lab Code § 1682.3.

[vii] Cal Lab Code § 1686.