Workers Comp Laws May Protect Undocumented Workers
Workers Comp Laws: Employers Can’t Escape Liability
Workers comp laws vary from state-to-state, but a recent case in Nebraska could be a sign that undocumented workers could be eligible for temporary or permanent workers comp benefits.
Here’s what happened in Nebraska. A man was working at a meatpacker company when his right foot was run over by a forklift. Several of the bones in his foot were broken, and he was placed on “light duty” until he fully recovered from his injury. He continued to suffer pain despite going to rehabilitation.
A rehabilitation consultant determined that his injury resulted in 20 percent impairment and that he was unable to transfer to another job because he lacked the employable skills and could not speak English. The injury had caused a 100 percent loss in his earning capacity.
Upon recognizing that the man would have to continue working in limited capacity, his employer’s personnel manager discovered that the man did not have the requisite immigration documents in his file. The man was fired after being unable to furnish the proper documentation.
The man hired a workers comp lawyer and went to court to fight for permanent disability benefits. He won.
Eventually, the case was appealed by the man’s former employer. But the Nebraska Supreme Court still ruled in favor of the injured worker. He won permanent disability benefits for his injury. The Supreme Court ruled that:
“Even if undocumented employees cannot legally work in the United States, they could have worked elsewhere but for their work-related injury.”
“Excluding undocumented workers from receiving disability benefits creates a financial incentive for employers to continue hiring them.”
“Allowing an employer to escape liability for the work-related injuries that its undocumented employees sustain gives the employer an unfair advantage relative to competitors who follow the law.”
“Employers bear the costs of their employees’ work-related injuries because they are in the best position to avoid the risk of loss by improving workplace safety. We agree that public policy weighs against allowing employers to avoid the costs of their workplace hazards.”
Workers Comp Laws are Complex. Get Experienced Help
If you or someone you know is undocumented and has been hurt at work, you could still be eligible to receive workers comp benefits.
According to the Department of Industrial Relations all workers are entitled to workplace protection.
Whether or not they are legally authorized to work in the U.S., all workers have the right to file wage and hour claims and workplace safety complaints as well as work in an environment free of retaliation.
The Legal Aid Society has provided a fact sheet regarding workers compensation law and undocumented workers, it states workers who are injured on the job are eligible for workers compensation benefits in California.