Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that exists to protect employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness. As part of the benefits package, eligible workers receive compensation for missed wages and medical bills related to their injury or illness. The operative word here is “eligible.” Typically, there are three basic requirements one must meet in order to file for workers’ compensation:
- The company you work for must carry workers’ compensation insurance.
- You must be an employee of the company, not an independent contractor.
- Your injury or illness must be related to your job.
These requirements don’t touch on employees who aren’t legally authorized to work in the United States because the laws vary. Here’s a look at what undocumented employees face when filing for workers’ compensation in California.
Are undocumented workers eligible for workers’ compensation?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, undocumented workers make up 10 percent of the workforce in California. With so many people working illegally, it's inevitable some will suffer an injury on the job. When they do, many undocumented workers question whether they’ll qualify for workers’ compensation. The short answer is, “Yes.” Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Some employers try to use these workers’ immigration status to deny them the benefits they deserve.
Here’s how employers try to get away with it. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) is a federal law that requires employers to make sure all of their employees are eligible to work in the United States. Companies that violate this law and knowingly hire undocumented workers are subject to hefty fines, as much as $10,000 for each unauthorized employee.
A lot of times, when an undocumented employee becomes injured at work and filed for workers’ compensation, his or her employer will try to use IRCA to deny the worker benefits. After all, if the undocumented worker isn’t eligible to work in the United States, he or she isn’t legally an employee. Therefore, he or she shouldn’t be able to file for workers’ compensation. Right?
Wrong. In California, all employees are entitled to workplace protection whether they are legally authorized to work in the United States or not. In addition to collecting workers’ compensation benefits, state laws also require that all workers have a right to receive minimum wage, to earn overtime pay, to file wage claims if they believe their employer has violated state wage laws, to file workplace safety and health complaints, and to work in an environment free from retaliation for exercising these rights.
Have You Unlawfully Been Denied Workers’ Compensation?
If you’ve been injured at work and have been told that you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation because you’re ineligible to work in the United States, call us. At the Law Offices of Gerald D. Brody & Associates, we know all of the tricks employers try to pull in order to deny their employees the benefits they deserve.
In California, all workers are entitled to workplace protection. This includes the right to file for workers’ compensation should you become injured on the job. Contact us today to have one of our workers’ compensation attorneys review your case. Your initial consultation is free, and the only costs you’ll pay come directly out of your settlement.