If you are an undocumented worker in the United States, you are not alone. In fact, there are approximately 7.9 million others working in the U.S. without the proper authorization to do so. Simply put, this country’s economy could not function without you.
With that said, what happens to you if you sustain an injury while you are at work? Because you lack proper papers, does that also mean you lack the ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits in this scenario? While this concern is completely valid, there may be more hope than you think.
You have the right to seek workers’ compensation
Because many undocumented workers work in the construction industry and this area of business is notoriously dangerous, the risk of injury without proper work authorization is realistically high. If you are hurt while on the job, do not let your employer talk you out of seeking workers’ compensation. In New York’s 2006 Balbuena v. IDR Realty, LLC decision, the court ruled that “an injured employee’s status as an undocumented alien does not preclude recovery of lost wages in a personal injury action.”
Workers’ compensation rights apply to fatal workplace injuries
In the case of fatal workplace injuries, the dependents of undocumented workers also have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits for their deceased loved ones. However, there are limits if dependents live in a foreign country. According to Section 17 of the Workers’ Compensation Law, only surviving spouses, children or dependent parents may receive benefits.
Sustaining an injury on the job is always stressful, but if you do not have proper work authorization, that stress can quickly multiply. Fortunately, New York offers more resources than you may realize. If you are in this situation, understanding your rights is the best place to start.