Entitlement to Workers Compensation for Undocumented Workers
Every person injured at work in Florida faces fear. Fear of not only the injury itself, but of the consequences the injury will play on finances, family and the future. Undocumented workers however, face additional fears, some valid, many not. Many undocumented workers worry that they will not receive any workers’ compensation benefits based upon the illegal status and worse, some worry that the injury itself will make them a target for arrest and deportation.
There is good news. Undocumented workers, even those who provided false social security numbers to their employers, are entitled to every medical benefit provided under the workers’ compensation law, regardless of their legal status. Moreover, undocumented workers are also entitled to all lost wage benefits when their authorized doctor believes that the injured worker cannot work in any capacity. Additionally, injured workers may be entitled to lost wages while on light duty if the employer knew, or should have known, that the injured worker was undocumented.
Undocumented workers also need to realize that a workers’ compensation injury will not flag them for deportation or arrest. Just last year, in a landmark ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court reaffirmed that the Federal Immigration Act does not impose criminal penalties for aliens who seek or engage in unauthorized employment.
However, injured workers, and the entire community, needs to know that these benefits can be taken away if the injured worker is not honest about their work status. All workers’ compensation benefits are predicated upon honesty. Any benefit can be taken away, from any injured worker, if that injured worker makes a misrepresentation or misleading statement to either the insurance company or a medical provider.
For undocumented workers, this means that you cannot use a false social security number on any paperwork provided either to the insurance company or any medical provider. If asked by anyone what your social security number is, you must tell them that you do not have one. The provision of a false number will preclude benefits and subject you to criminal penalties. I always tell every client to be honest about everything. This is even more important for undocumented workers.
If injured on the job, contact an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. This attorney can help you step by step so that you will get the benefits that you need and deserve under the law. As with any other case, do not give statements to insurance companies over the telephone or in person. If you are contacted, get an attorney.