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Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Samuel McTyre with McTyre Gutierrez PLLC.
Laws regarding undocumented immigrant workers can vary widely from state to state; it’s important to know which rights undocumented workers can depend on to ensure they stay safe and whole on the job, especially in the event of a workplace injury.
Laws regarding immigrant workers in Virginia are unique; while undocumented workers and minors whether lawfully or unlawfully employed are still generally eligible for workers’ compensation, they may not be eligible to the same extent. Workers’ compensation or “workers’ comp” is a form of employee injury insurance designed to offer limited benefits to injured workers while protecting the employer from liability; workers’ comp benefits generally include medical bills and lost wages, but they may vary from state to state.
Employers of all kinds are required by law to provide reasonable safe work environments for their employees. Depending on the industry, this could include providing necessary safety equipment, rest breaks, and repairing any unsafe condition or piece of machinery.
When a worker is injured due to an employer’s negligence in maintaining a safe work environment, the injured worker may be eligible to file a workplace injury claim in addition to receiving workers’ comp benefits, without being required to reveal their citizenship.
Workers’ comp benefits typically include coverage of the injured workers’ medical bills, at least in the short term. Under workers’ comp the employer may require workers to seek care from an in-network medical provider, so it’s important to ask your employer if this is the case before seeking anything but emergency medical care. It is also extremely important to get all communications regarding your injury and workers’ comp claim in writing; this way if there is any unscrupulous conduct from the employer or the workers’ comp provider, the situation can be plainly laid before an immigration and labor attorney to make sure the worker’s rights are protected.
The good news for undocumented workers in the state of Virginia is that they are eligible to receive help with medical bills under the state’s workers’ comp law.
Unlike some other states, however, Virginia’s workers’ comp laws do not require the employer to provide an undocumented worker with compensation for lost wages. This can be financially strenuous for an undocumented worker who is too injured to return to work right away.
However, the exception to this rule is if the undocumented worker is completely disabled; if an undocumented worker is completely disabled due to an on-the-job injury, the employer may then be required under Virginia workers’ comp law to provide them with wage lost benefits. However, employers are often confused by their legal obligations to undocumented workers; it may take a labor and immigration attorney to inform them of an undocumented worker’s rights and insist on those rights being protected.
To learn more about what kind of rights undocumented or immigrant workers have, or to education your employer on your rights under workers’ comp law, reach out to an experienced employment attorney in your state.
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