Are undocumented immigrants injured at work entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? Can someone be deported for filing a work injury claim?
Nixon Arias worked for a landscaping company for nearly 9 years as an undocumented worker, using the Social Security number of a deceased person. In 2012, things started to go south for Arias when his lawnmower hit a hole and he suffered serious back injuries.
His employer’s insurance company covered the cost of pain medication and physical therapy, but the pain did not go away, so Arias’ doctor recommended that he undergo surgery to plant a device that would block certain nerve impulses in his spinal cord to stop the pain.
Arias’ insurance company discovered a problem with this Social Security number and denied his claim for compensation. A few days later, he was arrested and spent 18 months in jail, even with his painful back. He was then deported back to his home country and never received compensation, according to WBUR.
For undocumented workers, the situation is dire when they suffer a work-related injury or illness because—on top of dealing with their condition and health—they fear being deported and losing their livelihood.
However, all undocumented workers in Georgia should know that state workers’ compensation laws provide workers’ compensation benefits to most injured workers, regardless of their immigration status.
That said, employers and insurance companies will often do anything they can to avoid paying benefits, and that is why you may need an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer to help you navigate this tricky situation.
Immigrant and undocumented worker statistics
There are about 8 million undocumented workers in the U.S. Many of these individuals take jobs that are dangerous and underpaid. In Georgia, there were an estimated 400,000 undocumented people in 2016, and that number has undoubtedly gone up in recent years. This equates to roughly 4 percent of the total population of Georgia.
Certain industries attract higher rates of undocumented workers. Some sectors with the highest rates of undocumented workers in Georgia include:
- Construction – 63,000 workers
- Professional fields (such as scientific, management, and administrative) – 32,000 workers
- Hotel and hospitality, entertainment, and recreation – 28,000 workers
- Manufacturing – 24,000 workers
- Retail trade – 15,000 workers
What are immigrant worker rights?
In Georgia, a vast majority of workers are entitled to workers’ compensation after a job-related injury or illness regardless of their immigration status. As long as the employee regularly works for a business, they are entitled to the same compensation that all other employees receive.
Unlike in other states, Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws provide that undocumented workers are entitled to compensation even if they use a false identity to apply for workers’ compensation.
Even though the immigrant worker rights are clear, employers and insurance companies may still attempt to avoid liability for a workplace injury by “turning in” an undocumented immigrant. In such complicated situations, our workers’ compensation attorneys can also represent you and fight against the employer or their insurance company who failed to offer compensation after an injury.
Undocumented workers face more challenges in getting workers’ compensation
If you are an undocumented immigrant injured at work, you will face several obstacles when you file a claim to get compensation for injuries.
For example, employers and insurance companies will sometimes intentionally put injured undocumented workers in a difficult situation by tipping off immigration authorities in a bid to not pay the worker for the injury or hiring a private investigator to check into the employee. If the immigration authorities realize the illegal status of the worker, they may imprison them before deporting them.
Also, in case of a serious injury, the medical costs may balloon in an uncontrollable manner. By intentionally delaying your benefits, an employer or insurer can increase the financial pressure you and your family are put under, making you more likely to accept a low settlement offer.
We protect immigrant rights to compensation in Georgia
Workers’ compensation is often a confusing and complicated legal process—even more so if you are an undocumented worker. Don’t let your employer threaten or intimidate you into accepting less than you deserve under Georgia immigrant worker rights.
Contact our experienced Georgia work injury attorneys for any of the following reasons:
- Your employer or insurance company is threatening to turn you into immigration authorities
- Your claim for compensation is denied
- The insurance company denies you treatment
- The insurance company fails to pay for compensation, yet you are unable to work
- Your physician recommends further treatment, but the insurance company has closed your claim
- You feel that the compensation you receive is not enough