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Can you get workers' compensation as an undocumented worker?

You came to the country through unusual means, and that labels you as an undocumented worker. You work hard, and you believe you should have access to many of the services and benefits the American people receive.

Recently, you got hurt on the job, but you didn't say anything. You didn't think you were eligible for workers' compensation, and if you spoke up, you could lose your ability to come to work or collect a paycheck. The injury is getting worse, and now you don't think you can continue to come to work safely. You want to get appropriate medical treatment and take time off to heal. What can you do?

Know the facts about undocumented workers

The first thing you should know is that undocumented immigrants make up around 3.5 percent of the United States' population and a shocking 10 percent of the workforce. It's not uncommon for an undocumented immigrant to get hurt on the job and feel they have no way to obtain compensation for the damage. The reality is that in most states, immigrants can obtain workers' compensation if they're hurt on the job.

How do employers try to avoid paying workers' compensation?

Some employers try to avoid paying workers' compensation to undocumented workers by claiming that the workers aren't legally their employees and, as such, are not eligible for workers' compensation.

The truth is that employers in the United States have a responsibility to verify your ability to work here legally. If your boss does not do this, it doesn't mean you can't get workers' compensation. While you're not authorized to work in the United States, a workplace injury still needs to be covered by your employer.

You should know that if you are not authorized to work, you may qualify for workers' compensation but could end up being unable to return to work because of your immigration status. Your employer can be heavily fined for employing a person who is not legally authorized to work in the United States.

It's a good idea to talk to your immigration attorney about seeking workers' compensation from your employer if your employer refuses to file your claim. Your employer may try to use the Immigration Reform and Control Act to prevent you from obtaining workers' compensation, but the reality is that the sanctions the IRCA imposes go against your employer and have nothing to do with your right to compensation.

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