As with any legal matter that arises for undocumented immigrants, we don’t suggest attempting to traverse the workers’ compensation process without legal representation. Knowing that you’re entitled to benefits is one thing – knowing how to overcome the hurdles to obtaining them is another.
Undocumented workers have been under fire for years for allegedly taking jobs from U.S. citizens or for collecting certain state and federal benefits despite their unlawful status. The truth is that many employers, especially in the agricultural but also in the service and construction industries, rely heavily on undocumented workers. If one of these workers is injured or killed on the job, are they or the surviving family members entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
Federal law is explicit on hiring undocumented workers. Under the federal Immigration and Control Act (IRCA), an employer is required to verify an individual’s eligibility to work in the U.S. before hiring him or her. Any employer who intentionally or knowingly hires an undocumented person may be forced to pay up to $10,000 per ineligible worker.
If you have questions regarding your workers’ compensation claims or your status in the country, our attorneys can help. Please contact us at 602-812-2000 to schedule a consultation today.
Still, millions of individuals who are in the U.S. illegally are able to obtain employment either from employers who neglect to verify their status through ignorance or intent. In any event, Arizona law, like the majority of other states, does not prohibit anyone from collecting workers’ compensation benefits under A.R.S. § 23-901(6)(b), since it defines a worker as “every person in the service of an employer… including aliens legally or illegally permitted to work for hire…”
In a workers’ compensation or third party claim, injured employees may not be asked about their immigration status if it is not reasonably related to the injury or circumstances.
There are significant policy reasons for allowing an undocumented worker to collect workers’ compensation. If this right were denied, unscrupulous employers would have little incentive to train undocumented workers or to keep worksites safe. They may also be incentivized to hire more undocumented workers to keep workers’ compensation premiums low.
By permitting such claims, the cost of maintaining safer workplaces and reducing workplace injuries remains on the industries that employ such workers. Also, if workers’ compensation benefits were denied to undocumented workers, they could still pursue claims for negligence against their employers in regular civil courts, a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution regardless of a person’s status in the country.