Court says immigration status does not influence workers’ compensation eligibility

pImmigrationServiceLogoAndPen_12149840_sIllinois workers’ compensation law is designed to help all workers who are injured or become ill on the job, regardless of immigration status. Each employer in the state is required to carry appropriate compensation insurance, and every employee is eligible for benefits to cover the costs of work-related disability. According to statistics compiled by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, approximately 55,000 claims for compensation were processed during 2012. Many of these claims were filed by workers with irregular immigration status. A recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirms the constitutional right of undocumented workers in America to collect benefits if they are hurt at work.

Constitutional protection for all Illinois workers

The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law to every person living on American soil. Undocumented immigrants as well as U.S. citizens have the right to compensation after a workplace accident, including all of the following benefits:

  • Compensation for medical care after an accident
  • Reimbursement for lost wages during the period of recovery or post-injury disability
  • Coverage for all necessary rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Vocational retraining as needed

Workers’ compensation covers these four areas for Illinois employees, whether or not they can produce proper documentation.

An important precedent in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that David Cruz, an immigrant from Ecuador, could not be denied workers’ compensation because he would not disclose his legal immigration status. Cruz became disabled in 2008 after suffering a back injury while working as a truck driver for an agricultural company. When he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to state whether he was residing legally in the country, a judge suspended his workers’ compensation benefits. In a recent ruling, the state Supreme Court reversed this decision, declaring that Cruz was eligible for benefits and could not be denied because of his unresolved immigration status.

What does this ruling mean for injured immigrant workers in Illinois?

This new ruling sets an important precedent for immigrant workers in Illinois. It shows that injured workers can apply for benefits regardless of legal status. It also affirms that the burden of proof is on employers to ascertain the immigration status of employees. If workers are hurt on the job, their immigration status cannot be used against them.

Are you dealing with the aftermath of a work-related injury in Chicago? Protect your interests by contacting a workers’ compensation attorney today.