In California, the topic of undocumented workers and their eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits is a matter of legal and ethical debate. The state is home to a significant number of undocumented immigrants, and many contribute to its economy by working in agriculture, construction, hospitality and other industries.
However, when accidents or injuries occur on the job, questions arise about whether these workers have entitlement to the same protections as their documented counterparts.
What California’s labor laws say
California’s labor laws safeguard the rights and well-being of all workers within its borders. This holds true regardless of a worker’s immigration status.
Who is eligible for workers’ compensation
Workers’ compensation benefits are available to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. To qualify for these benefits, one must meet certain criteria. If undocumented workers in California provide services in exchange for wages, they may be actual “employees.” This employment status is a key factor in determining eligibility.
To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the injury or illness also must have been accidental in nature and the result of performing work. Injured workers also have to report their injuries to their supervisors within 30 days. Otherwise, they may relinquish their rights to receive workers’ compensation.
Undocumented workers who meet these criteria may be eligible for benefits related to medical treatment or vocational rehabilitation. They may also be able to get temporary or permanent disability benefits. Undocumented workers may also have legal recourse if their employers retaliate against them for pursuing these benefits.