Many undocumented laborers wonder if they can receive workers’ compensation benefits. The short answer to this is YES. Many undocumented workers take up service jobs in hotels, restaurants and construction. Illegal immigrants often have very strenuous and dangerous positions compared to American workers who often don’t want to work in farms and slaughterhouses. These jobs tend to generate higher injury rates compared to white-collar desk jobs.
Although it is illegal for the employer to hire undocumented workers, many state laws make it legal for undocumented immigrants to collect workers comp benefits. However, this can lead to an uphill battle for the undocumented worker, as their employer will be reluctant to admit they hire illegal aliens. Proving employment will be hard because the worker is most likely paid in cash, so payroll records are unlikely. In many construction projects there can be various subcontractors working on the same development, and it can be very confusing as to which employee works for which sub-contractor. So it may come down to the employer’s word versus the undocumented workers testimony. Luckily for them, many judges have seen this on multiple occasions and tend to side with the illegal worker unless faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In states such as New York, California, Colorado, Hawaii, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas the law specifically states, “employee means any person, including a minor, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed in the service of an employer.” However, in some states such as Wyoming, undocumented immigrants are banned from collecting workers’ compensation benefits. If you are an undocumented worker injured on the job, it is in your best interests to file a claim immediately. You can worry about being covered after filing your claim, as there is a statute of limitations in most states and if you wait too long, you won’t quality for workers’ compensation. Even if you are not due workers’ compensation benefits, you will not get in trouble for filing a claim.