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Can undocumented workers receive workers' compensation benefits?

While hiring undocumented workers may not been lawful under existing federal law, many employers turn a blind eye when they desperately need help. Because hiring undocumented workers is illegal in this country, you may think that you'd be ineligible to file a claim to receive workers' compensation benefits if you were hurt on the job.

The truth is that your legal status here in the United States doesn't impact your ability to file and receive workers' compensation benefits, though.

There is one exception to this rule. If an employer can prove that they were unaware of an employee's undocumented status at the time that the injuring incident occurred, then this may trigger significantly reduced benefits. More specifically, employers who unknowingly hire undocumented individuals are only required to pay a portion of the expenses they otherwise would for a lawfully employed individual.

Although it's a violation of federal law for the employer to rehire you once they've been made aware that you are an undocumented immigrant, they have to pay you the same wage you were making before you became injured if they do. If they hire you at a lower rate and you suffer an injury again, then you may file a claim for higher benefits than you otherwise would be entitled to receive.

If you're an undocumented worker, then the amount your employer will be responsible for paying out on your workers' compensation claim is contingent upon whether they had reason to suspect that you used false documents at the time you were hired. If they hired you even though they suspected that the documents were falsified, then they may be able to justify that you're owed far less than you need or deserve.

In learning more about your legal status, your employer's hiring practices and your injuries, a Los Lunas workers' compensation attorney can advise you of your rights to file a claim in your case.

Source: Compensation BLR, "Undocumented worker entitled to limited workers' comp benefits," Barbara Koenig, May 23, 2018

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