Brief Fact Summary. A migrant farm worker was discharged from his job and was not allowed to remain overnight at his employer’s barracks.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a landlord is also the tenant’s employer, and the housing is based on employment, the tenant must be given a reasonable time to find alternative housing before being evicted and must also be given a hearing before ejectment.
Issue. Are migrant farm workers who reside in living quarters provided by their employer entitled to a court hearing before being evicted?
The state will not enforce a contract if it violates public policy. The state of New Jersey has demonstrated a progressive attitude in providing legal protection for migrant farm workers.
Generally, contracts between parties will be enforced by the court. But, that assumes that the parties are in relatively equal positions and their consent is freely given. Courts have revised contracts where there was an inequality in the bargaining power of the parties. This principle applies to leases.
A migrant farm worker has little bargaining power. The realities of the employment force him to live at the barracks provided by Defendant. Under the contract, a worker had not right to stay at the camp when his employment ended. The interest of neither the migrant farm worker nor the public is served by turning him out without reasonable time to find shelter.
The farm workers do not negotiate their contracts; they must accept it as presented to them. This is not real consent to the contract.
Defendant’s superior bargaining power is evidenced by the absence of a provision in the contract, which allows for a reasonable time to find housing after the employment is terminated. This indicates the unconscionability of the contract. Public policy requires a provision for a reasonable time to find alternative housing.
Before a worker can be dispossessed of his housing, a judicial proceeding must take place. This allows for an equitable resolution. An equitable adjustment of the rights of the parties may vary from one case to another. An appropriate remedy might be more time in the housing, assistance in finding other housing, or a return ticket home.
Discussion. Migrant farm workers often have a landlord-tenant as well as employer-employee relationship with their employers. They do not speak English, and their families do not reside in the United States. Since they present such a unique situation, they cannot be immediately evicted from their housing. They are entitled to some protection by the courts, which is done by a hearing.