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Can undocumented immigrants file for workers' compensation?

Undocumented immigrants in the United States are having a rough time these days. The working conditions many of them face don't make it any easier.

Because of the limited number of jobs available to them, many undocumented immigrants take positions in hazardous occupations, like construction, roofing and factory work.

If they get injured, do they have any options?

In Minnesota, undocumented immigrants are just as entitled to workers' compensation benefits after an injury as any other injured employee.

Unfortunately, filing a claim isn't without risks. A few employers are taking advantage of the current anti-immigration climate in the country to save money by unfairly denying the claims of undocumented immigrants. Some employers are retaliating against undocumented immigrants by firing them as soon as they file a claim. They often count on the fact that many undocumented workers don't realize that they're being treated illegally.

It's important to know your rights. Regardless of your immigration status, Minnesota allows an injured employee to seek fair compensation and benefits for workplace injuries.

Your employer also cannot legally fire you for making a claim. Suddenly deciding to adhere to regulations that prohibit undocumented workers after years of permitting you to work despite your status is just a thinly-veiled excuse to fire you in retaliation.

Your employer may face significant fines and citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if he or she does retaliate. Many employers may not be aware that this is even a possibility because the new rule has only been in effect since the end of 2016.

Additionally, immigration authorities are not supposed to interfere with labor disputes. That helps ensure a safer working environment for all employees, so there's a significant governmental incentive to preserve that understanding with ICE.

What happens if you are treated illegally by your employer after you're injured? You may also find some new alternatives that could help your situation. For example, as a victim of a crime, you may be entitled to stay in the U.S. legally thanks to a U visa.

The best thing to do is seek legal advice and explore your options. Contact from a workers' comp attorney can sometimes cause an employer to reverse course even before any official action is taken.

Source: NELP.org, "Protecting Injured Immigrant Workers From Retaliation in Minnesota," accessed May 15, 2018

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