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Should an undocumented California worker document a work injury?

You came to California some time ago. You escaped imminent danger and extreme poverty in your country of origin. Since then, you managed to build a healthy, successful life here for yourself and your family; yet, each year continues to bring challenges and worry because you remain undocumented. Perhaps part of your concern pertains to your job. What if you get injured in a workplace accident? How might your status affect your ability to seek medical attention or receive workers' compensation benefits? 

You likely already know most employers in the United States must purchase insurance to protect their workers in case of injury on the job. Workers' compensation insurance supplies benefits for injured employees to cover medical expenses and replace at least a portion of lost wages to help make ends meet during recovery. Many immigrants live in fear of deportation, and what seems a minor incident to a U.S. citizen (such as getting pulled over for a broken tail light) often terrifies a person without legitimate resident status. 

Remember this if you suffer injury at work 

In this state alone, undocumented workers comprise as much as 10 percent of the workforce. It's therefore logical to assume that some of these workers become involved in workplace accidents resulting in injuries at some point. Hopefully, you won't be one of them, but if you do suffer an injury, you can avoid potential problems if you know the following: 

  • Undocumented persons cannot legally obtain gainful employment in the United States. 
  • Employers must prove their employees' eligibility before hiring them. 
  • Fines against employers for violations of these laws often reach as high as $10,000 per employee. 
  • Employers cannot use these facts as excuses to not provide workers' compensation benefits to injured workers even if they do not possess proper documentation. 
  • California is one of many states with specific statutes allowing injured undocumented employees to collect workers' compensation benefits. 

In short, workers' compensation insurance protects you and all other employees should you suffer an injury on the job in California. This doesn't necessarily mean you would not face challenges regarding navigation of the system if indeed the need arose for you to file a report and request benefits. In fact, your entire family would likely be affected in various ways in such circumstances. 

Do you know that some attorneys in the state also came to the United States as immigrants? This generally means they possess keen understanding and insight into immigration affairs and can provide invaluable guidance and support when trying to determine the options available to you and how best to proceed to address a particular immigration matter. Anyone facing a workers' compensation problem or other on-the-job issue regarding resident status can request a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.

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