Immigration status is irrelevant to California workers’ compensation law, so employers cannot restrict access to workers’ comp for undocumented workers purely because of immigration status.
If you are being denied workers’ compensation for your work-related injury due to your immigration status, call the Ernst Law Group at (805) 541-0300 for a free consultation.
What Should Be Covered
If you’re a worker injured on the job in California, then you’re entitled to workers’ compensation under the law, regardless of your immigration status. Although it’s illegal in the United States to hire a person who does not have a legal right to work in the country (i.e., if they are an undocumented immigrant), once a worker is hired, they are eligible for workers’ compensation whether they are lawfully employed or not.
The following are expenses that should be covered under California workers’ comp for undocumented workers.
Cost of medical treatment
If an undocumented worker was injured on the job under the parameters that qualify them for workers’ compensation, then their medical treatment and expenses should be covered. If the worker was injured while completing their normal job duties, then workers’ compensation should cover the cost of their medical care, whether that includes going to the emergency room, specialist visits, surgery, physical therapy, prescriptions, or other medical expenses.
In some cases, lost wages may be covered under workers’ compensation. This can include wages lost as a result of missing work due to the injury. This is not always the case though, so you’ll need to check with your employer and your workers’ compensation attorney if you’re concerned about lost wages in your particular case.
Undocumented Workers May Not Be Eligible for Some Job-Retaining Benefits
Although undocumented workers are able to collect workers’ compensation, they may not be eligible for some benefits. Essentially, because they were unlawfully employed, they may not be able to receive certain benefits regarding job retention. Below are two benefits that you may not be eligible for as an undocumented worker.
If you are an undocumented worker injured on the job, you may not be elligible for temporary disability in some cases. Specifically, if modified work is available and you refuse it, you may not collect temporary disability. Modified work is an offer of a job that you can do while temporarily disabled as a result of your injury. This work consists of job duties that are possible for you to perform while injured.
Supplemental job replacement
Additionally, you may not be able to receive supplemental job replacement if permanent work is available. Usually, when an injured worker is deemed permanently disabled, they can be offered supplemental job replacement. This is a voucher that provides the disbaled worker with a chance to get trained in a different type of work if they can no longer do their previous job.
However, if the employer offers the disabled worker a permanent job doing something different than they were previously doing, and if this new job is something that they can do despite being disabled, then the worker may not receive supplemental job replacement. This restricts workers from using supplemental job replacement to get a new role that they like more, rather than accepting the permanent work offered by their employer.
Your Rights Under California Health and Safety Laws
Even as an undocumented worker, you still have rights under California health and safety laws, and your immigration status does not take away those rights. The following are a few rights you have under California law.
Right to Refuse Hazardous Work
You have the right to refuse a hazardous work assignment if the job presents a danger that violates the State of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health standards. If a task puts you or others at serious risk of harm, you can refuse to do it. Refusing the job doesn’t have to be as confrontational as it sounds. If you are going to refuse work on the grounds of it being truly hazardous, you should go to your employer, calmly explain what you perceive as the hazard, and say that you will not do the dangerous work. You should then express that you’re willing to complete the job if the hazard is removed; otherwise, you’re willing to do a different, non-hazardous job.
Employee Right to Records and Documents
You have the right to request and receive records and documents regarding employee exposure to hazardous materials. You can submit a written request for these records and your employer must provide you with them within 15 calendar days. These documents can include safety logs and data, documentation of hazardous agents used in the workplace, employee medical complaints, and more. For more information on what records and documents you can request, see the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health website.
Protection Against Retaliation
As an undocumented worker, you are also entitled to your right to protection against retaliation. If an employer attempts to fire you or deny you work for no other reason than to punish you for filing a workers’ compensation claim against them, they are breaking the law. California law protects you against this type of retaliation. However, employers are required to fire undocumented workers the moment they learn they are undocumented, so some employers will try to fire workers out of retaliation but use the fact that they are undocumented as the reason, even though they knew previously and took no action.
If your employer is attempting to retaliate against you for filing workers’ compensation or is denying you access to workers’ compensation because you are undocumented, you need a lawyer. Workers’ comp for undocumented workers is promised under California law, and a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. Call (805) 541-0300 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney from the Ernst Law Group.