Injured on the Job: Undocumented Workers’ Rights
If you are an undocumented worker, and you are injured on the job, what rights do you have? Often times, undocumented workers are too intimidated by the threat of deportation to report on-the-job injuries to anyone, much less seek legal remedies against their employers. Unfortunately, this can often lead to unreasonably dangerous work conditions for undocumented workers. Additionally, undocumented workers are often unaware of their rights to recover damages for work-related injuries, which makes them even less likely to report injuries or assert work injury claims.
Utah Covers Undocumented Workers in the Workers’ Compensation Statutes
Utah, as well as Arizona, California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, New York, and Texas specifically extend to undocumented workers the protections of workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, if your employer is covered under workers’ compensation insurance, so are you. Assert your rights! Other states, such as Idaho and Wyoming, expressly exclude undocumented workers. Other states have not yet dealt with the issue, leaving it to the courts to struggle with whether to cover these workers.
Thankfully for Utah workers, the legislature chose to offer undocumented workers the same rights and protections as their counterparts who do have legal work status. Utah has recognized that providing protections against unreasonably hazardous work conditions for undocumented workers means safer work environments for all Utah workers.
Speaking of Wyoming — Big Case
Despite Wyoming’s reluctance to extend workers’ compensation benefits to undocumented workers, it seems as though there are still options for injured workers to bring claims against their employers for their work-related injuries. A recent case involving a construction worker who fell 10 feet onto concrete during a highway construction project resulted in a $1,000,000 jury verdict in favor of the undocumented construction worker. He sustained severe injuries, including a broken wrist (which required surgery); herniated discs in his lower back (which will require surgery in the future); and endured extended rehabilitation and physical therapy for his wrist and shoulder. Needless to say, the worker’s quality of life was greatly affected, and he will likely never be able to resume work that requires heavy labor. Because the worker was undocumented, and ineligible to work in this country, the court struck his claims for future wage loss. Although, with the $1,000,000 verdict for his past and future medical expenses, this worker certainly could have fared much worse.
We can only speculate as to what effect, if any, that case would have on the law in Wyoming with regard to undocumented workers who are injured on the job. However, that verdict likely made a fairly large impact on the way employers handle workplace safety and treat injured employees, regardless of their immigration status.