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When legal status and workers' comp intersect

California is a border state. If you are an immigrant who happens to work in this state, you are likely aware that federal officials often conduct spontaneous investigations and target undocumented immigrants for detainment. You may be one of many immigrant employees who are hesitant to report an injury because you worry that problems might arise regarding your legal status or you simply don't want to draw any further attention to your situation than necessary.

Do you worry that your paperwork might not be in order so you might not be eligible to collect benefits if you suffer an injury on the job? You should know several things regarding immigration and workers' compensation. Of primary importance, is knowing where to seek support if you run into legal trouble.

The law protects all workers

It doesn't matter if you are a U.S. citizen or an undocumented immigrant, your employer is obligated to purchase workers' compensation insurance to provide benefits that help pay medical expenses and replace lost wages if a worker suffers injury during the normal course of his or her duties in the workplace.

In fact, some states specify in writing that employers are not to exclude non-documented immigrants from their workers' compensation programs. If you suffer an on-the-job injury, you can follow the same steps as any other employee to report the injury and file a benefits claim, whether you entered the United States with a visa or came across a border without your paperwork in order.

Issues that might make your employer nervous

If your employer failed in his or her obligation to check your employment eligibility when you started working for the company, it might cause concerns if you file a claim for workers' comp benefits. This is because the federal government issues fines and penalties against employers who hire workers without properly vetting the first.

Your employer must fulfill hiring obligations. You are legally permitted to report your injury and to claim workers' comp benefits. If your employer later faces a penalty or fine because he or she did not follow the law regarding hiring immigrants, that is another issue and does not take away from your ability to obtain workers' compensation benefits.

The buck stops with the main contractor

Especially in the construction industry, it is not uncommon for there to be a general contractor, then several sub-contracted entities on the same job site. When it comes to worker safety, the main contractor is ultimately responsible for the safety of anyone and everyone on the job. 

If legal problems arise

If the process of filing a workers' compensation claim attracts the attention of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may encounter several challenges regarding your legal status. If so, you can tap into local resources to seek guidance from an immigration advocate who can recommend a best course of action to minimize potential negative repercussions in your situation.

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