Undocumented Workers And Workers’ Comp

Workers’ Compensation Coverage as an Undocumented Worker

Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance coverage purchased by employers/businesses that provide benefits for job-related injuries or illness. It is required for most employers in Florida.  In fact, in nearly the construction industry, the law requires companies with at least one employee to have an established workers’ compensation policy in effect.

When you think of an employee, do you also think of undocumented workers? You should. Though undocumented, such laborers still work in the U.S., and under Florida law, every employee in the State, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status, is entitled to workers’ compensation if they receive an injury or become ill on the job.

Undocumented worker defined

An undocumented worker is a foreign national who lives and works in the U.S. without legal immigration status. How do they become undocumented? Many undocumented immigrants enter the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the U.S. government. Others who had a legal visa which eventually expired and their status became undocumented. Estimates from the most recent Pew Research Center study puts the number of undocumented immigrants living in Florida at 775,000.

Workers’ Compensation coverage for undocumented workers

If an undocumented worker is injured or becomes ill while at work, Florida’s workers’ compensation law, as mentioned before, provides protection to the worker. Typically, there are  three basic eligibility requirements for one to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. They include the following: 1) the person or company the laborer works for must carry workers’ compensation insurance, 2) the laborer must be an employee of that person or company, and 3) the injury or illness must be work-related. If all three requirements are met — which for undocumented workers, they are typically are — the employee is eligible for coverage.

While it sounds very simple, there are many cases in which determining employers’ and employees’ rights gets tricky. In many cases, once the undocumented employee becomes injured or ill, employers oftentimes terminate them to avoid paying for injury claims and subsequently have them arrested for falsifying employment documentation.

A recent Tallahassee incident is the perfect example. Here the worker was reported to ICE and will potentially be deported. In such a situation, the case is complicated, but benefits are still payable. The Carrier may have to establish appropriate medical care in the home country. The same challenges arise if the employee is not terminated, but there is no employment documentation and ICE intervenes. This complicated cases need attorney involvement as soon as possible.

If you feel you have a potential workers’ compensation case, documented or not, contact one of our experienced attorneys.