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Leep, Tescher, Helfman and Zanze

Undocumented workers in California can seek workers’ compensation

Undocumented workers or those without proper paperwork for securing paying jobs in the United States contribute substantially to the economy in California. Some people without documentation work in factories, while others work on farms, in retail businesses or at restaurants.

Regardless of what field you work in, you need to know your rights or risk an employer intentionally violating them, especially if you get hurt on the job. Employers may attempt to take advantage of workers without documentation, especially in situations where those workers aren’t familiar with their own rights or aren’t willing to stand up for them.

For example, if you experience a work incident that leaves you hurt, you have the right to workers’ compensation protection, regardless of your documentation or immigration status. In fact, California has several special laws on the books that create legal penalties for employers who attempt to deny undocumented workers their employment rights.

Your employer should not deny your compensation or retaliate

There are federal laws in place that prohibit employers from retaliating against injured or disabled workers who either require workers’ compensation benefits or reasonable accommodations in the workplace due to an injury, illness or disability. When you get hurt on the job, your employer should help you connect with the medical care you need to return to work and should accommodate your injuries and medical instructions regarding limitations on your work until you recover.

Unfortunately, companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers may do so with the intent of ignoring their rights and as a way to make higher levels of profits. Workers’ compensation claims and accommodations can eat into a company’s profit margin, leading to an intentional violation of your rights as an injured worker, such as retaliation for filing a claim or threats to report your undocumented status if you seek benefits or take other action to enforce your rights.

If your employer punishes you, denies your claim or otherwise attempts to retaliate against you for seeking the benefits you need after a workplace injury, you may need to explore your rights as an undocumented worker and take enforcement action against your employer. Creating financial consequences for the mistreatment of undocumented workers may be the only way to get a business to change its inappropriate practices.