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Undocumented workers who get injured on the job have the same rights to workers’ compensation benefits as other employees. However, if you are undocumented, you may have concerns about pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced attorney who can protect your rights. If you are an undocumented construction worker in North Carolina who sustained a job-related injury, contact Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., to learn about your legal options.

Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., can handle every aspect of your workers’ compensation claim and help you pursue compensation during this difficult time. Call (919) 661-9000 or contact us online for your free case evaluation with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Raleigh, NC. Our staff is fluent in English and Spanish and are ready to help.

Occupations for Undocumented Workers in Construction

Construction is a major industry in North Carolina, one that employs many foreign-born workers.

The most common occupations for undocumented construction workers include:

  • Carpenters
  • Brick masons
  • Block masons
  • Stonemasons
  • Painters and paperhangers
  • Roofers
  • Electricians
  • Automotive service mechanics
  • First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Plumbers, steamfitters, and pipefitters
  • Construction laborers
  • Carpet, tile, and floor finishers and installers
  • Construction managers
  • Heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning installers and mechanics
  • Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers
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Common Causes of Undocumented Construction Worker Accidents

Undocumented workers perform the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry and are at a higher risk of severe injuries and fatal injuries.

The most common causes of accidents involving undocumented construction workers include:

  • Falls from ladders
  • Collapsing cranes
  • Slip/trip and falls
  • Scaffolding accidents
  • Getting caught between machinery
  • Forklift accidents
  • Falls from heights
  • Code violations
  • Electrocution incidents
  • Getting struck by falling objects
  • Unsafe working conditions

Federal Laws Protecting Undocumented Workers

The term undocumented immigrant refers to a person who is in the U.S. illegally, either because they entered unlawfully or entered legally but lost their legal status at some point. The Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire or recruit someone unauthorized to work in the United States. The law also prohibits employers from continuing to employ undocumented workers if the employer discovers their immigration status after hiring them.

However, other federal and state laws protect undocumented workers. For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits certain employers from discriminating against workers based on their race, color, or nation of origin, regardless of that worker’s immigration status. The Immigration and Nationality Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in the hiring, recruiting process, and dismissal of an employee based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.

Health and safety laws protect all employees regardless of work status. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects undocumented workers’ right to organize or participate in unions. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), it is illegal for employers to use a person’s immigration status against them, such as by threatening to report undocumented workers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Are Undocumented Workers Entitled to NC Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Yes, undocumented workers who are full or part-time employees and are injured on the job may receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Under North Carolina law, undocumented workers are entitled to N.C. workers’ compensation benefits if they get hurt on the job. According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-2(2), an employee is defined as a person engaged in an employment under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, oral or written, including aliens and also underage workers, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed. According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, only casual employees, domestic servants, and certain railroad employees are not employees for the purposes of worker’s comp benefits.

Undocumented workers are entitled to the same workers’ comp benefits as other workers, including:

  • A portion of lost wages
  • Payment for medical bills related to treating the work-related injury
  • Payment for permanent injury to a body part

Can I Get Workers’ Comp Benefits If My Employer Misclassified Me as an Independent Contractor?

YES. Some employers intentionally misclassify undocumented workers as independent contractors to avoid paying the many costs associated with hiring employees, such as workers’ compensation insurance, payroll taxes, Social Security, and unemployment insurance. However, businesses cannot legally classify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and benefits.

According to the Labor and Employment Section of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), an employer must follow federal guidelines when classifying workers and may not exploit workers by misclassifying them. What determines whether a worker is an independent contractor are the characteristics of their work and their relationship with the company that pays them, according to the NCBA.

If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you should immediately speak to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. The consultation is free and confidential. An attorney can advise you of your rights and determine the next steps for taking legal action.

Damages You Are Entitled to as an Undocumented Construction Worker with Injury

Generally, employers that provide workers’ compensation benefits cannot be sued by their workers for work-related injuries other than for the underlying workers’ compensation case. However, you might be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against another party that contributed to the workplace accident that caused your injuries. For example, a company acting as the general contractor at a construction site may have multiple subcontractors working at the same time. If you were injured due to hazardous conditions created by another company working on the construction site, you may have a right to sue that other company while also pursuing a workers’ compensation case against your direct employer.

The compensation you may be entitled to pursue as an undocumented construction worker with a workplace injury that arose by another party that contributed to the work place incident includes the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital bills, imaging tests, prescription medications, and other medical expenses
  • Loss of enjoyment or quality of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Damage to personal property

Punitive damages may be sought in a personal injury lawsuit in special circumstances.

Can You Be Deported for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?

You may be concerned about your employer notifying the authorities of your immigration status if you pursue a workers’ compensation claim. However, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), most state laws regarding workers’ compensation prohibit employers from retaliation against employees for filing workers’ comp claims.

Your employer is unlikely to report you because businesses are prohibited from knowingly employing undocumented workers. If your employer threatens to have you deported for filing a workers’ comp claim, speak with an attorney immediately to understand your rights.

Are Immigrant Workers Being Exploited in Construction Jobs?

Undocumented workers often take jobs in dangerous industries, including construction. Some employers hire undocumented workers to cut labor costs by paying below the required minimum wage. Some pay their workers in cash to avoid creating employee records. This allows these employers to subject their immigrant workers to dangerous working conditions and avoid having to provide workers’ comp benefits.

According to the Urban Institute, nearly one in four fatally injured immigrant workers in the United States is employed in the construction industry. Immigrant workers in the construction industry are often paid significantly less than their non-immigrant counterparts for the same work, the Urban Institute says.

Non-union contractor jobs are among the most dangerous in the construction industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), union worksites are 19 percent less likely to have an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation and have 34 percent fewer violations per OSHA inspection than non-union sites.

How Can a Lawyer Help My Workers’ Compensation Case?

A knowledgeable North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer with Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., can assist you with every aspect of your workers’ compensation case by:

  • Advising you on your rights
  • Preparing all forms and documentation for your claim
  • Filing the workers’ compensation claim on your behalf
  • Submitting the available evidence proving your job-related injury
  • Protecting you from employer retaliation
  • Protecting your rights under federal and state laws
  • Filing an appeal for a denied claim
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Call Our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

Undocumented construction workers have the same right as other employees in North Carolina to workers’ compensation benefits for work-related injuries. If you were injured in a workplace accident, don’t let your employer intimidate you to prevent you from filing a claim. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of your immigration status.

At Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., we have extensive experience representing injured workers in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina. We provide personal attention to meet every client’s needs and help them navigate the challenges of filing a workers’ comp claim after a workplace injury.

If you sustained injuries as an undocumented employee on a construction site, call us at (919) 661-9000 for a free case evaluation. A workers’ compensation lawyer can review the circumstances to determine if you qualify for benefits and get started on your case.

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