Undocumented Injured Workers and Workers' Compensation
If you are an undocumented worker in North Carolina and you have sustained an injury on the job, you may still be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of your immigration status or lack of documents. Workers’ compensation benefits include paid medical care and income replacement if you are unable to work. If your employer is disputing your right to workplace accident benefits, you may need the help of a determined workers’ compensation attorney.
It is important to speak with an experienced North Carolina lawyer who represents injured undocumented workers in workers’ compensation claims and can explain your legal rights. Attorneys Robert C. “Chip” Younce Jr. and David E. Vtipil are board certified specialists in North Carolina worker compensation law. Certification by the North Carolina State Bar indicates that an attorney has attained additional education and passed a written examination in a particular area of law.
Our attorneys have many years of experience resolving workers’ compensation appeals. We can review your injury and discuss whether you have a valid workers’ compensation claim. If you do, we will fight for your rightful injured worker benefits.
Our legal team at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., can provide legal guidance in Spanish as well as English. Attorney Joseph Baznik, whose grandparents immigrated from Mexico, speaks Spanish fluently and helps Spanish-speaking clients navigate the workers’ compensation system. We are committed to serving all injured workers, whether documented or undocumented. Our staff can speak with you in the language in which you feel most comfortable discussing more complicated legal topics. If you have a valid claim, we are committed to helping you, regardless of your immigration status or legal residency.
Undocumented Workers’ Rights in North Carolina
An undocumented worker who is injured on the job in North Carolina may be told or believe mistakenly that he or she is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In fact, in many cases, undocumented and illegal workers who are injured at work have a right to the same workers’ compensation benefits as other workers, including paid medical care and replacement of part of their wages while they cannot work. Courts in North Carolina have ruled that undocumented workers have a right to workers’ compensation benefits.
It is against the law for an employer to deny workers’ benefits because of a worker’s immigration status or lack of a green card.
You have a right to medical treatment after a workplace injury, regardless of your legal status.
You have a right to report an on-the-job injury without fear of reprisal or dismissal by an employer or deportation. You should notify your attorney if you receive any threat of retaliation from an employer or an insurer administering workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation insurance benefits are available to all injured employees including seasonal workers, part-time employees, illegally hired workers, workers without documentation and underage workers, according to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Undocumented workers and non-legal resident workers who are denied workers’ compensation benefits have a right to speak with an attorney.
Illegal workers have a right to file an appeal if an employer or the employer’s insurance administrator has denied a claim for workers’ comp benefits.
The families of undocumented workers who are killed in workplace accidents may have a right to collect workers’ compensation settlements for the loss of their loved one.
Types of On the Job Accidents Common for Illegal Immigrants
Each day, thousands of hardworking, undocumented workers perform their jobs in communities throughout North Carolina. Many are employed in dangerous and physically demanding occupations such as construction work, roofing, farming, manufacturing and food processing.
Many undocumented workers are employed in the construction industry and are exposed daily to the hazards of dangerous work sites.
- Heavy Equipment Accidents — Construction workers may sustain serious injuries in accidents involving heavy equipment such as forklifts and frontend loaders. Workers on foot may be hit by a moving vehicle if an equipment operator is not paying attention or fails to see a worker standing in a blind spot. Workers can also fall if they’re riding in the bucket of a piece of equipment.
- Falls — Undocumented workers frequently work from ladders, scaffolds and rooftops and are vulnerable to serious injuries including traumatic brain injuries if they fall from heights. Falls are a leading cause of construction accidents causing serious injuries and deaths.
- Cave-ins — Many illegal workers are day laborers who dig ditches and work in trenches, installing pipe. Undocumented workers working in trenches may suffer crush injuries or brain injury from lack of oxygen if a trench collapses.
- Loss of Limbs — Workers who use power tools or operate food processing machinery may suffer serious injuries, including the loss of fingers, hands or other body parts.
Difficulties for Undocumented Workers Working as Independent Contractors
Many companies hire independent contractors rather than regular employees to save money on employee benefits. Independent contractors are not typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, health insurance or retirement benefits. But some employers try to classify undocumented workers as independent contractors simply to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and other benefits.
Hiring workers as independent contractors allows a business to hire hardworking undocumented workers without being responsible for verifying immigration status or incurring civil fines for employing illegal workers.
Some employers use undocumented and illegal workers to avoid complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act or state requirements to pay minimum wages and overtime. These employers presume that undocumented workers will not complain about unfair pay, lack of benefits or dangerous work conditions out of fear of losing their jobs and being deported.
Some employers try to take advantage of independent contractors who are undocumented workers. They assign undocumented independent contractors the most dangerous tasks to perform or fail to provide adequate safety equipment and safety training. Immigrant workers frequently either do not receive safety training or receive inadequate safety training.
An employer cannot avoid its responsibility to provide injured worker benefits, as spelled out in the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, simply by designating workers as independent contractors. North Carolina law protects undocumented and illegal workers also.
Many times, employer classifications of workers as independent contractors do not stand up when challenged in court. Even if an employer has labeled you as an independent contractor, the court may determine that you are in fact a regular employee based on the degree of oversight an employer has over your work and work schedule.
Talking with a knowledgeable attorney at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., about your situation can give you a clearer understanding of your legal options. We can discuss the appropriate steps to take if you have been denied benefits. The consultation is free and does not obligate you to hire us. Call to schedule a free consultation.
Denied Claims for Injured Illegal Immigrants
If you are an undocumented worker who has been injured on the job in North Carolina, you should talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer if you have been denied workers’ comp benefits. You may have a right to worker’s injury benefits.
There are many reasons why employers deny workers’ compensation claims.
Some employers will deny your workers’ compensation by claiming that you are an independent contractor. But, as discussed above, a denial may be overturned upon appeal by producing evidence that your terms of employment match the description of a regular employee. A North Carolina court may rule that that the independent contractor classification is incorrect and that you are, in fact, entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
An employer may deny your application for benefits by claiming that your injury did not occur while you were performing work-related duties. An injury must occur while you are performing job-related duties to be covered by workers’ compensation. This type of denial may be appealed.
An employer may deny your claim or discourage you from applying for benefits if you are an undocumented worker. The employer may expect that you will accept this because of your immigration status. But you still have legal rights as an undocumented worker. You should inform yourself of your legal rights by scheduling a free consultation with a N.C. workers’ comp lawyer.
If You Are Undocumented and Have Been Injured on the Job, Speak with an N.C. Workers’ Comp Lawyer
If you believe that you were unfairly denied workers’ compensation benefits for a job-related injury in North Carolina, talk with a friendly and knowledgeable attorney at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A. Our experienced attorneys handle workers’ compensation claims for injured workers including undocumented workers in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Siler City and the surrounding area. Call us to schedule a free consultation to find out how we may assist. Speaking with a workers’ compensation lawyer is free and without obligation.