Anybody who is injured on the job could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, which is an insurance program that provides payment to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illness. There are typically three basic eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation benefits, which include the following: The person or company you were working for must carry workers’ compensation insurance or be legally required, you must be an employee of that person or company, and your injury or illness must be work-related.

Immigration and the Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

Undocumented immigrants make up 3.5% of the United States’ population, and undocumented immigrants make up 10% of the workforce in California. Undocumented immigrants are not legally authorized to work in the United States. There is something known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which is a federal law that requires employers to verify their employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Multiple violations under the law could cost an employer as much as $10,000 for each unauthorized employee. In certain situations where undocumented immigrant employees were injured at work, employers tried to use IRCA to deny undocumented employees workers’ compensation. Employers may argue that, since the undocumented workers aren’t authorized to work in the United States, they are not legally employees and are therefore ineligible for workers’ compensation.

What are the State Laws?

Many state laws make undocumented immigrants eligible for workers’ compensation. In many states, undocumented immigrants can get workers’ compensation because the state’s statute specifically includes undocumented employees. Some states that have statutes to expressly include undocumented immigrants include Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Immigration is constantly grabbing headlines in the news these days, and with that, some state legislators may decide to push bills once again that disqualify illegal immigrant workers from receiving these benefits. The issues came to light in the news again when tens of thousands of Central American children flooded the U.S. border recently. This brought on an angry reaction by residents in a California town, who blocked Homeland Security buses carrying illegal immigrants.

Even in a 1999 Virginia Supreme Court finding, illegal immigrants in the state could not receive workers’ compensation benefits when they were injured. This pushed Virginia employers to support the successful adoption of a law requiring workers’ comp benefits to be paid to undocumented workers. This just goes to show that, despite legislative attempts over the years to prevent providing workers’ comp benefits to illegal immigrants, state laws on the matter have remained unchanged.

Perhaps you were injured at work and are unsure of your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. In this case, you should consult with an experienced attorney for a case evaluation. Call MDL today for a free consultation and review.