Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 2020 No. 2 -
Attorney General Bob Ferguson

FARM AND AGRICULTURAL LAND—LABOR—ATTORNEYS—PROPERTY—Access By Legal Aid Representatives To Private Property Where Migrant Workers Are Housed

  1. Representatives of legal aid organizations generally do not require a prior invitation to enter onto private property where migrant agricultural workers are housed where the purpose of the visit is to provide legal information.
  2. Employers may establish reasonable time, place, and manner rules for visits to private property, but a requirement for employer permission to enter would not generally be reasonable.
  3. In order for the employer to lawfully use or threaten force to eject a legal aid worker, the legal aid workers would have to trespass maliciously on the labor camp.

September 2, 2020

The Honorable María Sigüenza
Executive Director, Commission on Hispanic Affairs
1110 Capitol Way S   Suite 220
Olympia, WA   98504

Cite As:
AGO 2020 No. 2

Dear Ms. Sigüenza:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion on the following questions:

  1. May representatives of a legal aid organization enter private property where migrant workers are housed, even if not previously invited or retained by the workers, or are they subject to prosecution for criminal trespass?
  2. May the property owner lawfully interfere with such visits by, for example, requiring the owner’s advance permission, or assigning someone to tell the legal aid representatives that the workers do not want to be visited?
  3. May the property owner lawfully use or threaten force to prevent access to migrant workers housed on private property by legal aid representatives?

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            1.         Representatives of a legal aid organization generally do not require a previous invitation to enter a labor camp where the purpose of their visit is to give legal aid or information to migrant workers who live there.

            2.         The employer may establish reasonable time, place, and manner policies to govern visits to the labor camp. Whether a given policy is reasonable depends on the particular circumstances involved but, generally, requiring advanced permission of the employer or a particular named worker is not reasonable absent reasons that justify the burden such policies place on expressive and associational rights.

            3.         In order for the employer to lawfully use or threaten force to eject a legal aid worker, the legal aid worker would have to trespass maliciously on the labor camp. Even if legal aid workers are trespassing when they enter private labor camps, they are most likely not doing so maliciously. Employers may not, therefore, use force to eject legal aid workers who enter or remain on the labor camp in order to give aid or information to migrant workers. Employers potentially may also use reasonable force to detain a legal aid worker if necessary to ascertain the worker’s identity and purpose. But in almost all circumstances there will be no privilege to use such force as soon as the worker identifies themselves.


            In your letter, you describe the nature of migrant workers’ living conditions. You state that migrant workers typically lack a means of transportation such as an automobile. While migrant workers sometimes live in motels or other accommodations with ready access to the community at large, you state that it is more common that migrant workers live on land owned or controlled by their employer in a rural setting and isolated from the broader community. Sometimes the housing takes the form of manufactured homes typical of a single-family residence. Other times, workers live in barracks-like conditions, where multiple people reside in a single room.

            The arrangement of the workers’ housing on the employer’s land also varies. Sometimes, the housing is visible from, and accessible from, a main road. Other times, the housing is far from a public road, and the workers live deep inside orchards. Often, workers have no practical means to leave the labor camps except on buses owned and operated by the employer that provide weekly bus trips into town. Labor camps, such as the ones you describe, house as few as ten and as many as several hundred individual workers.

            Legal advocates seek to meet with workers living in such isolated conditions to ascertain whether the workers want information about their legal rights or legal representation. They often enter land owned or controlled by the workers’ employer without an express invitation from or a retention agreement with the workers. Legal advocacy teams may include attorneys, law students, and outreach coordinators.[1] Such teams are usually comprised of between two and six

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people. They generally meet with the workers either at the workers’ own homes within the labor camp or in communal areas such as kitchens or dining halls.

            You report that employers have, in some instances, refused to cooperate with legal advocates wishing to meet with migrant workers on the employer’s land. The nature of the non-cooperation has varied, but generally has involved questioning the premise that legal advocates can enter the property without an express invitation in order to discover if workers living there would like to request services or information. For example, some employers require legal advocates to identify the precise individuals they are there to meet with and deny entry if no individual is named or if the named individual reports to the employer that they do not wish to see the advocate. Others require that the legal advocates get permission from the employer before they can introduce themselves to the workers. You believe these methods are unlawful and request an opinion on the subject.


1.         May representatives of a legal aid organization enter private property where migrant workers are housed, even if not previously invited or retained by the workers, or are they subject to prosecution for criminal trespass?

            It is our opinion that the rights to freedom of speech and association protected by the state and federal constitutions generally limit an employer’s[2] right to restrict access by legal aid organizations to private labor camps. Thus, legal advocates who enter a private labor camp for the purpose of determining whether any migrant worker living in the camp wishes to speak with them do not commit criminal trespass. If a migrant worker living at the camp does wish to speak with them, then the advocate can stay consistent with the invitation the advocate receives from the migrant worker.

            “A person is guilty of criminal trespass . . . if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another[.]” RCW 9A.52.080(1). “A person ‘enters or remains unlawfully’ in or upon premises when he or she is not then licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to so enter or remain.” RCW 9A.52.010(2). It is an element of the offense of criminal trespass that the accused was not invited onto the premises. City of Bremerton v. Widell, 146 Wn.2d 561, 573, 51 P.3d 733 (2002).

            In Washington, tenants have the right to invite guests, so those invited by a tenant may traverse common areas, owned by the landlord, for purposes consistent with the tenant’s invitation. Id.; see also City of Seattle v. McCready, 124 Wn.2d 300, 306, 877 P.2d 686 (1994). Workers

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living in private labor camps are generally tenants. State v. Fox, 82 Wn.2d 289, 292, 510 P.2d 230 (1973). Therefore, if a worker living in a labor camp invites a legal advocate to meet with them, it is not criminal trespass for the legal advocate to enter the labor camp in order to meet with the worker even if the employer tells the legal advocate to leave.

            In Fox, the Washington Supreme Court held that an attorney who entered and remained on premises controlled by an employer in order to speak with workers did not commit criminal trespass by staying after the employer told him to leave. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 293. Because this is the only Washington case on this precise issue, it is appropriate to examine it in detail.

            The labor camp in Fox housed 220 migrant workers on land leased by the employer. Id. at 291. Each employee paid $2.75 per day in rent to the employer. Id. A union organizer first met with the workers in the labor camp, apparently unchallenged by the employer, and some of the workers told the organizer they wanted to speak to an attorney. Id. The organizer then left the camp and met with an attorney, and they together—along with three other people including a journalist and additional union organizers—traveled back to the camp some days later. Id. at 291-92. They arrived after the end of the workday but during daylight hours. Id. After turning onto the camp’s private road, an agent of the employer stopped them. Id. at 292. The attorney presented his bar membership card, but refused to identify the individuals he was there to see. Id. Meanwhile, the organizer walked away in search of workers who wanted to speak with him. Id. The organizer and the attorney both refused to leave when directed to by the employer’s agent, and they were arrested and charged with trespass.[3] Id.

            The Court first held that the workers were tenants, and “[a]s such, they had the right to invite others onto the premises.” Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 292-93. It also held that convicting the attorney of trespass would interfere with the workers’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to counsel. Id. at 293. The Court concluded its discussion of the attorney’s trespass charge by holding, “[i]n the present case [the attorney] merely remained on the [employer’s] premises and waited for [the organizer] to find the men who wished to talk to him. Under such circumstances, [the attorney] had a lawful right to be there.” Id. After finding that the organizer had an independent statutory right grounded in labor law to meet with the workers, the Court further concluded, “[u]pon the authority of modern constitutional, decisional and statutory law, we hold the appellants herein had a lawful right to be at the labor camp at the time they were arrested.” Id. at 294. Thus, while the attorney and labor organizers in Fox were invited onto the premises by workers, the Court’s reasoning suggests that constitutional rights were also implicated that would have applied even if they had not been invited.

            The Washington Supreme Court’s opinion in Fox is consistent with jurisprudence from other jurisdictions. Courts have generally relied on three rationales to find that criminal trespass statutes cannot prohibit workers from receiving aid and information at a private labor camp. First, other courts have found that migrant workers have tenancy rights to receive guests, which bars application of criminal trespass statutes to individuals visiting the workers. Folgueras v. Hassle, 331 F. Supp. 615, 624 (W.D. Mich. 1971) (“The migrants living in [the] labor camps are tenants

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within the meaning of Michigan law. Their tenancy entitles them, their guests, and representatives of assistance organizations to full rights of ingress and egress to and from their dwellings.”). Because migrant workers who do not pay monetary rent still exchange their labor for housing, even such workers are tenants. Id.; see also State v. DeCoster, 653 A.2d 891, 894 (Me. 1995).

            Second, courts sometimes find that the possessory interest in land under state property law is insufficient to prevent migrant workers from receiving aid and information. The leading opinion on this ground is the New Jersey Supreme Court holding in State v. Shack, 58 N.J. 297, 277 A.2d 369 (1971). “[W]e find it unthinkable that the farmer-employer can assert a right to isolate the migrant worker in any respect significant for the worker’s well-being.” Id. at 307. Relying on this inherent limitation in state property law, the New Jersey court held that representatives of federal, state, or local services organizations as well as journalists had the right to enter the land to seek out workers at their living quarters and the migrant workers had the right to receive them. Id. This rationale has been adopted by at least one other court. See Folgueras, 331 F. Supp. at 624 (“This court concurs with the New Jersey court in concluding that the property rights of the camp owner do not include the right to deny access to his camps to guests or persons working for any governmental or private agency whose primary objective is the health, welfare or dignity of the migrant workers as human beings.”).

            Third, like the Washington Supreme Court, courts often find that the workers’ or the visitors’ constitutional rights would be violated by application of criminal trespass laws. Petersen v. Talisman Sugar Corp., 478 F.2d 73, 83 (5th Cir. 1973); Rivero v. Montgomery County, Md., 259 F. Supp. 3d 334, 355-56 (D. Md. 2017); Franceschina v. Morgan, 346 F. Supp. 833, 838-39 (S.D. Ind. 1972); Folgueras, 331 F. Supp. at 623-26; People v. Rewald, 318 N.Y.S.2d 40, 45 (N.Y. Cty. Ct. 1971); People v. Medrano, 78 Cal. App. 3d 198, 214, 144 Cal. Rptr. 217 (1978) disapproved of on other grounds by Vista Verda Farms v. Agric. Labor Relations Bd., 29 Cal. 3d 307, 325 n.8, 625 P.2d 263 (1981). However, two federal Courts of Appeal have disagreed with this line of cases, holding that employers are not necessarily state actors required to comply with the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Illinois Migrant Council v. Campbell Soup Co., 574 F.2d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 1978); Asociacion de Trabajadores Agricolas de Puerto Rico v. Green Giant Co., 518 F.2d 130, 141 (3d Cir. 1975).

            While it is settled law in Washington that migrant workers living in a labor camp are tenants (Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 292-93) and that when a tenant invites a guest, a landlord may not bar that guest from accessing property to accept the invitation (Widell, 146 Wn.2d at 573), you are concerned with a prospective guest’s right to access property without an advance invitation. The situations you ask about are arguably distinguishable from Fox where the union organizer had already spoken with residents of the labor camp and they invited him and an attorney onto the property. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 291. Because landlords and tenants jointly control common areas of the property, either can generally exercise the right to exclude a person from those common areas in the absence of an invitation from the other. See McCready, 124 Wn.2d at 306. It is only if the

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tenant has a right to receive a prospective guest (or if the guest has a right to visit the tenant) sufficient to overcome a landlord’s normal right to control access to the property that the legal aid professionals you ask about could enter a labor camp uninvited and in the face of an express command to leave from the employer. See Green Giant Co., 518 F.2d at 135.

            It is possible that the Washington Supreme Court could find, based on property law principles, that in the case of migrant workers with no other means to exercise their tenancy right to invite guests, prospective guests may enter even when asked to leave by the employer. This would be analogous to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s holding in Shack, 58 N.J. at 307.[4] This, however, would be a new development of Washington landlord-tenant law, so we cannot assume such a ruling for purposes of this opinion. And, because the basis for such a holding would be that otherwise migrant workers would be unable to speak to and meet with legal advocates, this would essentially be an extension of the constitutional values of expression and association into property law. Therefore, we analyze the question under the rubric of the Constitution.

            Generally, the First and Fourteenth Amendments protect a person only from government action. Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 513, 96 S. Ct. 1029, 47 L. Ed. 2d 196 (1976). Application of a criminal trespass statute to enforce a private property owner’s rights does not necessarily convert the property owner’s action into state action subject to constitutional guarantees. City of Sunnyside v. Lopez, 50 Wn. App. 786, 796, 751 P.2d 313 (1988). In certain circumstances, however, private property owners may be required to comply with First and Fourteenth Amendment requirements. See Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501, 66 S. Ct. 276, 90 L. Ed. 265 (1946); see also Hudgens, 424 U.S. at 520.

            Courts that have applied First and Fourteenth Amendment protections to trespass actions on private labor camps have generally relied on two related rationales. First, a private labor camp may be, depending on the facilities provided by the employer, a “company town” required to comply with the First Amendment as if it were a state actor. See Petersen, 478 F.2d at 83. The company town doctrine applies to private property that is the functional equivalent of a municipality, with all of the attendant facilities and services that municipalities generally provide. Id. (holding that labor camp with more than 1,000 residents, a store, a chapel, sewage and garbage collection, and other facilities was a state actor under the company town doctrine); see also Campbell Soup Co., 574 F.2d at 378 (holding labor camp not subject to company town doctrine). If a company town, then a labor camp must comply with the First Amendment as if it were a state government. See Marsh, 326 U.S. at 508-09. In such a case, the labor camp must allow prospective

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visitors access to the residences of individuals living in the labor camp for the purposes of communication. Martin v. City of Struthers, Ohio, 319 U.S. 141, 148, 63 S. Ct. 862, 87 L. Ed. 1313 (1943).

            Second, some courts have reasoned that even if a private labor camp is not a full-fledged company town, the First Amendment still prohibits employers from barring visitors to private labor camps if there are no other reasonably effective ways for visitors and workers to communicate with each other. Rivero, 259 F. Supp. 3d at 356. This reasoning is persuasive because, as numerous courts have recognized, if employers are able to isolate migrant workers within agricultural labor camps, then such workers would have no recourse for the vindication of their legal rights. Green Giant Co., 518 F.2d at 140; Sam Andrews’ Sons v. Agric. Labor Relations Bd., 47 Cal. 3d 157, 190 n.3, 763 P.2d 881 (1988) (Broussard, J., concurring/dissenting).

            This reasoning is consistent with our Supreme Court’s recognition in Fox that farmworkers’ access to legal counsel (and vice versa) implicates First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 293. It also has support from Marsh, the United States Supreme Court opinion that first adopted the company town doctrine. Marsh relied on two rationales. The first was that the company town at issue there was generally open to the public and used by the public as any other town. Marsh, 326 U.S. at 506. This rationale is not generally applicable to private labor camps, which, as you have described them, are usually closed to the public and may lack features necessary to constitute a “company town.” But, the second rationale was that individuals who live in company towns, “just as residents of municipalities, are free citizens of their State and country.” Id. at 508. “There is no more reason for depriving these people of the liberties guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments than there is for curtailing these freedoms with respect to any other citizen.” Id. at 508-09. This second rationale applies with particular force to private labor camps where the migrant workers may rely on the employer even for transport to and from the camp. If such workers are to exercise their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights at all, they may be required to exercise them wholly within the camp itself. This argues strongly for application of constitutional protections to prevent employers from isolating migrant workers and keeping them from communicating with outside parties. We find persuasive an opinion of the Attorney General of Michigan who, opining on this same issue, concluded that First and Fourteenth Amendment rights allow aid organizations to enter migrant worker camps without permission:

The freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution are operative throughout the length and breadth of the land. They do not become suspended on the threshold of an agricultural labor camp. The camp is not a private island or an enclave existing without the full breadth and vitality of federal constitutional and statutory protection.

Op. Att’y Gen. 4727, at 38 (Mich. 1971).

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            For these reasons we do not find persuasive contrary authority from the Seventh Circuit Court Appeals holding that the only circumstances in which private property owners are limited by the First Amendment are in cases of true company towns. Campbell Soup Co., 574 F.2d at 376.[5] The court in Campbell Soup Co. interpreted Marsh in light of later United States Supreme Court holdings that first applied Marsh to shopping centers and then backed away from that application, ultimately holding that shopping centers did not meet the Marsh company town test and that owners of shopping centers could prohibit the public from speaking within them. See Hudgens, 424 U.S. at 513-21. In doing so, the Supreme Court emphasized that shopping centers lack many characteristics found in towns and are not used by the public in the same ways as towns. Id. (citing Lloyd Corp., Ltd. v. Tanner, 407 U.S. 551, 568-70, 92 S. Ct. 2219, 33 L. Ed. 2d 131 (1972)). Applying this logic, the Seventh Circuit held that because the private labor camp at issue there did not have many of the facilities one would expect of a municipality, it was not a company town, and the property rights of the employer were not limited by the First Amendment. Campbell Soup Co., 574 F.2d at 378. But shopping centers are readily distinguishable from, and raise entirely different concerns than, the private labor camps you ask about. Generally, no one resides in a shopping center, and members of the public using the shopping center go there under their own power, have ready access to transportation to leave at any time, and spend only a small part of their time there. The United States Supreme Court, in determining whether the Marsh doctrine should apply to shopping centers, only examined the first rationale of the Marsh opinion, that a town should be treated like a town. Id.; Lloyd Corp., Ltd., 407 U.S. at 563; Amalgamated Food Emps. Union Local 590 v. Logan Valley Plaza, Inc., 391 U.S. 308, 318, 88 S. Ct. 1601, 20 L. Ed. 2d 603 (1968). It had no occasion to examine the second rationale, that individuals residing in a company town are no less deserving of First Amendment protections than anybody else. Id. Here, migrant workers live in private labor camps, and without the ability to receive uninvited guests, both the workers and prospective guests may be foreclosed entirely from exercising freedoms of expression and association with each other. Under the second rationale of the Marsh opinion, the First Amendment limits private property rights in those instances. Marsh, 326 U.S. at 508.

            Therefore, because migrant workers and legal advocates will generally lack other reasonably effective alternatives to meet and speak with each other, the employer may not bar legal advocates from entering the common areas of a labor camp for the purpose of determining whether any worker wants to speak with them.[6] If they could do so, the workers and the advocates would have no way to exercise their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of communication and association. This rule applies even where the labor camp does not otherwise provide the kind of facilities that would subject it to the company town doctrine (it obviously also applies where the

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camp would qualify as a company town). See Marsh, 326 U.S. at 508-09; cf. Campbell Soup Co., 574 F.2d at 377-78 (listing criteria by which labor camp may be considered a company town).[7]

2.         May the property owner lawfully interfere with such visits by, for example, requiring the owner’s advance permission, or assigning someone to tell the legal aid representatives that the workers do not want to be visited?

            While employers generally may not bar legal advocates from entering labor camps even uninvited, the employer still has the right to establish reasonable time, place, and manner rules to regulate such visits. Sam Andrews’ Sons, 47 Cal. 3d at 177; see also Petersen, 478 F.2d at 82.[8] Whether regulations governing visits to a labor camp are reasonable is a case-by-case question, and depends on all of the circumstances of the given labor camp, the employer’s needs, and the workers’ needs. See Sam Andrews’ Sons, 47 Cal. 3d at 178. We are hesitant to say that the kinds of rules you ask about specifically could never be lawful. Generally, though, for the reasons given above, we are skeptical of these sorts of barriers placed between workers in migrant labor camps and legal advocates. Allowing an employer to deny entry to a legal advocate without advance permission gives the employer the power to deny the workers’ rights when the workers lack effective alternative means to meet and speak with legal aid representatives. And requiring a worker to tell their employer they wish to speak with a legal advocate opens the worker up to retaliation for exercising their rights. These sorts of restrictions are unlawful in the absence of reasons justifying the burden they would place on expressive freedoms. See Id. at 177 n.13 (holding that labor camp requirement that would-be visitors present themselves to camp security, identify the person they wished to visit, and wait for that person to be brought to them was “clearly not reasonable”). And, it should be noted, any reasonable time, place, and manner regulations a labor camp might wish to adopt must be implemented in a content-neutral way. Hudgens, 424 U.S. at 520.

            We will refrain from speculating about what kinds of circumstances could justify the specific policies you ask about. Such policies, however, cannot unreasonably burden the rights of migrant workers or legal advocates to meet with and speak to each other.

3.         May the property owner lawfully use or threaten force to prevent access to migrant workers housed on private property by legal aid representatives?

            Lawful use of force is governed by RCW 9A.16.020. While it is conceivable that an employer in control of a labor camp could lawfully use or threaten force to a legal advocate in extraordinary circumstances, it is more likely that any force or threat of force would be unlawful.

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            Two grounds for the lawful use of force are potentially relevant here. First, “[t]he use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward the person of another is not unlawful” when used to prevent “a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property[.]” RCW 9A.16.020(3); see also State v. Bland, 128 Wn. App. 511, 514, 116 P.3d 428 (2005). “‘Malice’ and ‘maliciously’ shall import an evil intent, wish, or design to vex, annoy, or injure another person.” RCW 9A.04.110. Second, persons in lawful possession of property may also detain trespassers in some instances:

            The use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward the person of another is not unlawful . . . [w]henever reasonably used by a person to detain someone who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or on real property lawfully in the possession of such person, so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises, and so long as the premises in question did not reasonably appear to be intended to be open to members of the public[.]

RCW 9A.16.020(4). Under either standard, lawful use of force must be proportional to the threat of harm posed. RCW 9A.16.020; see also State v. Murphy, 7 Wn. App. 505, 515, 500 P.2d 1276 (1972) (holding threat of deadly force is not justified as a matter of law to eject civil trespassers).

            Under the first standard—use of force to prevent “a malicious trespass”—as discussed above, legal advocates generally do not trespass on an employer’s property by entering without an invitation. The advocates would need to violate an employer’s reasonable time, place, and manner regulations in order to trespass.

            Even if legal aid advocates were trespassing in violation of an employer’s reasonable policies, entering for the purpose of providing legal aid to migrant workers who live in the camp is not malicious. Certainly, any legal aid consistent with the Rules of Professional Conduct, binding on all attorneys in both their direct and supervisory roles, would never constitute malicious trespass. See RPC 4.4; RPC 5.3. The legal advocates would need to enter or remain on the land with the intent to do harm to the employer or the workers in order to trespass maliciously. Trespassing with the only purpose being the provision of legal aid to the residents of the camp would not constitute a malicious trespass.

            Similarly, applying the second standard, if a legal aid advocate were trespassing in violation of an employer’s reasonable policies and the employer was unsure who the person was or why they were on the property, the employer could theoretically detain the person “so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises[.]” RCW 9A.16.020(4). But this exception applies only where the apparent trespasser is on the land “unlawfully,” i.e., in violation of reasonable policies. Responsible behavior by employers and legal aid representatives should avoid any plausible need for the use or threat of any force under such circumstances. For example, if an employer asked an apparent trespasser who they were and their reason for being present, and the person identified themselves as a legal aid representative, there would be no basis to use or threaten any force to

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further “investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises[.]” RCW 9A.16.020(4); see also Moore v. Pay’N Save Corp., 20 Wn. App. 482, 487-88, 581 P.2d 159 (1978) (holding genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff was falsely imprisoned during brief incident where plaintiff demonstrated the location of merchandise plaintiff was incorrectly accused of shoplifting). It is thus difficult to imagine a lawful use of force by an employer where a legal aid representative identified their purpose in response to an inquiry. Additionally, even in the unlikely event that some degree of force were lawful, the force must be “reasonably used,” which would presumably mandate an extraordinarily minimal amount of force in the case of legal aid representatives. RCW 9A.16.020(4); see also Murphy, 7 Wn. App. at 515.

            In short, except in extraordinary circumstances that are difficult to imagine, an employer may not use or threaten force to eject legal advocates from a labor camp.


            We trust that the foregoing will be useful to you.

Attorney General


s/ William McGinty
Assistant Attorney General





[1] Your letter does not define what an outreach coordinator does, but we assume that, in the context of legal advocacy, the term means a professional involved in coordinating legal advocacy services.

[2] Many different arrangements are possible for the control and ownership of a private labor camp. Workers might reside on land owned and utilized by the employer for the employer’s business. Workers might also reside on land leased by an organization distinct from the workers’ employer, but compensated by the employer for the purposes of providing the workers housing. In this opinion, we use “employer” and “landlord” interchangeably to mean the person or entity with control of a private labor camp.

[3] The three other individuals left the camp at the insistence of the employer’s agent. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 292.

[4] The New Jersey Supreme Court did not hold that migrant workers were tenants with the right to receive guests, instead holding that there was “no legitimate need for a right in the farmer to deny the worker the opportunity for aid available from federal, State, or local services, or from recognized charitable groups seeking to assist him.” Shack, 58 N.J. at 307. These same considerations, however, could support a rule of law that the uninvited prospective guests of migrant workers may not be denied entry to the common areas of a labor camp where they seek to provide aid of some sort. See Folgueras, 331 F. Supp. at 625 (holding that both property law and landlord-tenant law allow aid workers to visit migrant workers in labor camps and that both rationales shared a “fundamental underlying principle”).

[5] The other federal appellate court decision that found a private labor camp could exclude prospective aid workers consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments held that the evidence was not sufficient to show the company town doctrine extended to the labor camp at issue. Green Giant Co., 518 F.2d at 140. The court there seemed to endorse the idea that, if an employer sought to isolate its workers from access to information that could improve their lives, some form of legal intervention would be appropriate. “[E]mployers might . . . be tempted improperly to isolate the workers in an impenetrable fortress, as it were. Where evidence suggests that this is the situation, the Court will respond appropriately.” Id.

[6] As discussed above, if the aid worker obtains an invitation they may remain as permitted by the migrant worker, who has tenancy rights to invite guests. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 292-93.

[7] If an employer whose labor camp would not qualify as a “company town” could show that those living on its property did have ready access to legal aid representatives through means other than those representatives entering its property, the constitutional analysis would be different. But, given our understanding of the typical circumstances of migrant workers living on an employer’s property, that would likely be a difficult showing to make and would require significant affirmative steps by the employer to provide its employees access to legal aid services.

[8] If a worker in the camp has invited a legal advocate, of course, then the advocate may enter for the purposes of the invitation. Fox, 82 Wn.2d at 292-93.