Are Undocumented Workers Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
An estimated 5% of the workers in the United States are undocumented according to The Center for Immigration Studies with some industries having a higher percentage rating such as construction with approximately 18%.
While Federal law forbids undocumented persons from entering or working in the US illegally and employers from hiring them, it does not regulate workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is regulated by state law. In Georgia, even if an injured worker is undocumented they are still entitled to medical and income benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
However, an issue often arises in these cases when the undocumented worker is released to light duty work by his workers’ compensation physician. Employers will then often try to offer a light duty job that requires work papers to get the worker off of workers’ comp benefits. When this happens – we look at several issues – 1) first, did the employer know that the worker did not have valid work papers when that person was hired? Did the employer have “unclean hands?”; 2) does the worker need a valid driver’s license to perform his/her job? In Martines v. Worley, the Court found that while an undocumented/illegal worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the employer was able to suspend his benefits when he was released to light duty by his physician. The employer offered him a light duty job that required a valid drivers license. When the employee returned to work but was not able to produce a valid drivers license, the employer was able to suspend his benefits because he was not able to accept suitable light duty work.
If you are not sure if you are entitled to benefits or feel that your benefits have been unjustly suspended, contact The Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera and let us help you determine what you are due.
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