Undocumented Workers

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Undocumented Workers

Undocumented immigrants, also sometimes referred to as illegal aliens, make up approximately 3.5% of the U.S. workforce. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, undocumented immigrants make up an estimated 10% of the workforce. Every year hundreds of undocumented workers suffer a work-related injury in Pennsylvania. Can undocumented workers receive workers’ compensation in PA? It depends.

Below is an overview of federal and state laws regarding workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented workers. Contact our Pittsburgh Pennsylvania workers’ comp lawyers for a confidential consultation regarding your PA workers’ compensation claim. As an undocumented worker, you may be entitled to benefits. Read on to learn more about workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented workers.

Immigration Reform & Control Act

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) is a federal law which requires employers to verify their employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. Under federal law, it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to work in the U.S. Employers that violate IRCA can be heavily sanctioned. Employers can face up to $10,000 in sanctions for each unauthorized employee.

In the past, employers have tried to apply provisions of the IRCA to prohibit undocumented immigrant workers from obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Employees have argued that since undocumented immigrants are not authorized to work in the U.S., state workers’ compensation laws do not protect them in the event of a work-related injury. Despite the federal prohibition on unauthorized workers, many state laws allow undocumented workers to receive workers’ compensation benefits. A state’s workers’ compensation statutes must reference undocumented worker’s ability to file for benefits.

Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

If you are a Pennsylvania undocumented worker who is injured on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are eligible, you may receive compensation for lost work and medical bills. In exchange, you will forfeit your right to sue your employer for damages outside of the workers’ compensation system. The following requirements must be met in order for you obtain workers’ compensation benefits:

  • Your employer must have workers’ compensation insurance. Not all employers are required to hold workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation coverage requirements vary from state-to-state. An employer’s responsibility to provide workers’ compensation coverage will depend on how many employees he/she has, the type of business, and the type of work the employees are performing. In some states, an employer must have three employees for it to be mandated to obtain workers’ compensation coverage. Some states only require one employee. Speak with an experienced attorney to find out if your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Stan is employed at Home Bargains USA. The company has 80 employees. The state in which Stan works requires employers who have more than 10 employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Stan is injured at work after suffering a slip-and-fall accident. Because Stan’s employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, he can file a claim for benefits.

  • You must be an employee. As mentioned above, if you are an unauthorized worker, the state workers’ compensation statute must apply to undocumented workers for you to seek benefits. Even if your state covers undocumented workers, if you are an independent contractor, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania.

Sarah is an undocumented delivery driver. The state in which she resides authorizes undocumented workers to receive workers’ compensation benefits. She works as an independent contractor for several companies. While under contract with Helpful USA, she was involved in a car accident. Because Sarah is an independent contractor, she may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

  • Your injury or illness must be work related. Finally, your injury or illness must be work related to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. A work-related injury occurs when you perform a task for the benefit of your employer and you suffer an injury or illness as a result thereof.

Peter works in the warehouse of Home Improvement, Inc. While unloading boxes from the pick-up truck into the warehouse, he suffered a slip-and-fall injury due to uneven floors. As an authorized worker, if Peter’s employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, he can file a claim for benefits because his injury occurred while he was performing a task for his employer.

Some states prohibit the applicability of workers’ compensation insurance coverage to certain workers. Though you may meet the requirements referenced above, you may not qualify for workers’ compensation insurance if you fall into one of the following work classifications:

  • Domestic workers.
  • Agricultural and farm workers.
  • Leased or loaned workers.
  • Casual or seasonal workers.

How to File for Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Do not let your undocumented status keep you from filing for workers’ compensation insurance. You may be entitled to benefits like documented workers according to Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws. Depending on the nature of your injury, you employer may be liable in paying your medical expenses and lost wages. You must act quickly when filing for benefits. Any delays could bar you from recovery. You may receive temporary or permanent disability benefits. If your loved one passed away, you may be entitled to survivor benefits.

We invite you to contact our law office today to discuss your workers’ compensation eligibility. All discussions are in complete confidence. You do not have to worry about your immigration status being jeopardized when meeting with an attorney. We will fight to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.

Most states require injured employees to report workplace injuries to their employers immediately. You can contact us prior to reporting the injury if you fear retaliation in doing so. Again, your employer may try and invoke IRCA to prohibit you from receiving compensation. Talk to our Pittsburgh workers’ compensation lawyers so you are familiar with your rights. Let our legal team fight to protect those rights.

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