There are countless reasons why people may find themselves working in the United States without adequate documentation. Perhaps they came to visit family and then ended up staying to make a better future. Maybe they belong to an ethnic group or religion facing persecution in their country of origin. Whatever the cause of their undocumented status, these individuals usually work hard to support themselves and their families.
Many times, undocumented workers secure jobs in risky career fields, like construction. Sadly, employers who retain the services and skills of undocumented workers may also choose to make other questionable employment choices. Those can include cutting corners when it comes to safety training and even equipment. Some may use older machinery, simply because they don’t place enough value on the lives of their staff. When companies make those kinds of profit-before-people choices, workers all too often pay the price.
The whole intention of workers’ compensation is to ensure that anyone who works for a living won’t end up indigent as a result. There was a time no so long ago when employers could simply fire and discard a worker who suffered injuries, leaving him or her without insurance, access to medical care or any source of stable income.
Workers’ compensation offers payment for medical expenses, as well as wage replacement for those who have a temporary or permanent disability. Anyone who works as an employee in California should have access to these benefits after a work accident or when a repetitive motion injury begins showing symptoms.
It’s a well-known fact that some employers will deny workers’ compensation claims and attempt to penalize workers who get hurt, even though doing so is against the law. When a company already engages in questionable or illegal employment practices, such as hiring undocumented workers, employees have every reason to fear retaliation, even if they should have protection from such practices.
For years, a legal battle on the issue of workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented immigrant workers has left people unsure of their rights. However, courts have ruled more than once that injured workers can receive workers’ compensation, regardless of their immigration status.
Some employers have tried to avoid that risk by reporting injured workers to the government. Some have ended up deported as a result, but that simply does not need to happen. Anyone who works a job and ends up hurt deserves the protections of workers’ compensation and access to proper medical care. Undocumented workers dealing with a work-related injury or illness should do everything in their power to assert their rights as workers, regardless of their immigration status.