In North Carolina, most migrant farm workers reside in housing provided by their employer. Regardless of what the employer says, these workers usually have the right to receive visitors in their home, under certain conditions, without having to ask the employer for permission. This is true, even when workers do not pay rent.
Workers have the right to visits, as would tenants who rent a private home. If you rent an apartment, for example, neither you nor your visitors have to ask the landlord for permission to have or make a visit. This also applies to agricultural workers.
Agricultural workers can invite anyone to their home without their employer’s permission, as long as it is during reasonable hours, outside working hours, and for lawful purposes. Employers can not restrict the entry of visitors who are invited by an agricultural worker under these conditions, nor can they require information from a visitor about who invited them or why they were invited.
There is some legal support for the simple fact that providers of services for agricultural workers (for example providers of health services, education or legal services) have an implicit invitation to visit workers.
The prohibition or control of visitors to a group of workers has negative consequences for workers. Unfortunately, the right of workers to receive visitors is continually violated. Each year, visits to representatives of agencies that offer services to workers are prohibited. As a result, agricultural workers cannot access basic education and services to protect their health and rights, or practice their religion with the religious groups that visit their homes.
When visitors have to ask permission to talk to workers, or when they are not allowed to talk to workers, many workers feel that their employer controls all aspects of their life, creating feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and helplessness. Even worse, in situations of abuse, limiting visits by agency agents prevents workers from asking for and getting the help they so badly need.
If you have any questions about your right to receive visitors or if you want to report a violation of this right, do not hesitate to contact our office at (800) 777-5869 or a private attorney to learn about your options.
This column contains legal information for educational purposes. It does not constitute legal advice. For the application of the law regarding your personal circumstances, call the Legal Aid Office of North Carolina at (800) 777-5869 or contact a private attorney.