The labor group California Rural Legal Assistance has been “on a pilgrimage” to redefine what courts consider voluntary transportation, according to ag labor attorney Michael Saqui of the Saqui Law Group. That could force farm employers to pay for travel time to work sites.

In a webinar Wednesday, Saqui pointed to a recent U.S. district court case concerning H-2A guestworkers. The judge was considering voluntary transportation as being not so voluntary, since the visa holders were in a remote area with no other transportation and no maps or knowledge of the region. The case was settled before a ruling.

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Now labor interests are pushing for a decision from courts and policymakers on the meaning of voluntary transportation.

The Legislature passed such a measure last year. SB 1102 would have required agricultural employers to notify H-2A guestworkers of their labor and housing rights. The bill later added provisions for paid travel time, lighting requirements and tenancy rights.

Gov. Newsom vetoed the measure, saying he would charge the labor department with implementing the notification requirement instead.