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 front-end 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 pipes. Undocumented workers working in trenches may suffer crush injuries or brain injuries 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. However 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 & Banks, 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.