Who Can Receive Workers’ Compensation?

Chinese Food

Are undocumented workers able to receive workers’ compensation?

One recent article details a common problem with workers’ compensation claims. There are instances in which businesses attempt to take advantage of their workers by not permitting them to receive their justly deserved benefits. This case concerns owners of Chinese restaurants who exploited their workers. The Zhang family owned five Chinese restaurants in Massachusetts, four in Maine, and two in Rhode Island. The legal matter focused on the transpired events in their Waterville, Maine Chinese restaurant. One of the illegal practices that the restaurant owners exercised was to deny benefits to their workers. Eighteen undocumented immigrants were denied workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practices.

No Discrimination of Undocumented Workers

Undocumented immigrants may live in a state of fear because their immigration status may result in their removal from the United States. They may have children who rely upon them in the country or family depending on the remittances that they make from their work in the United States. As a result, they are more likely to be exploited because of their precarious position. However, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a federal law enforcement agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination, has instituted measures to prohibit the employment discrimination of undocumented immigrants. As Ms. Ida Castro, the former chairwoman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated, “If employers were not held responsible for discrimination against unauthorized workers, it would create an incentive for unscrupulous employers to engage in unlawful workplace conduct.”

Regrettably, fear and ignorance are powerful factors that result in the unwillingness of undocumented immigrants to come forward when employers have violated their rights. One of the important rights that undocumented workers have in the state of Massachusetts is the right to obtain workers’ compensation for injuries suffered during employment.

Workers’ Compensation Permissible for Undocumented Workers in Massachusetts

Workers’ compensation for illegal immigrants has been found legally permissible in Massachusetts since 2003, as a result of a case involving an insurance company that appealed a lower court’s decision to award workers’ compensation to an undocumented immigrant. The insurance company attempted to argue that a previous Supreme Court case, [Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, 535 U.S. 137 (2002)], disallowed Mr. Medellin from receiving the benefits that he suffered from a work injury. Mr. Medellin was a Mexican engineer who came to the United States for further studies. Due to economic concerns, he stopped his studies and began to work as a construction worker. When Mr. Medellin injured himself while handling a jackhammer, he attempted to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, which the insurer promptly refused to pay. The case (Medellin v. Massachusetts) established that an undocumented immigrant could be included under the definition of “employee” for the purposes of workers’ compensation. As undocumented immigrants are able to receive workers’ compensation, one should not allow their immigration status to prevent them from their deserved benefits.

Companies and insurers may attempt to deceive people so that they do not have to pay for workers’ compensation claims. If you need to file a claim for workers’ compensation, your first priority should be to contact the Sheehan Law Firm. The firm has experience in workers’ compensation claims and can provide the assistance to help you win your case.
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