According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, more than 11 million foreign-born workers in America are undocumented or have irregular immigration status. All Illinois employees have a legal right to workers’ compensation if they suffer a disabling accident on the job. This right is not affected or abridged by immigration or citizenship status. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania confirms the universal right to benefits after a work-related injury.
Four principles of workers’ rights for all American employees
The U.S. Constitution declares that everyone living within American borders is entitled to equal protection under employment law. Both documented and undocumented workers have the right to the following four categories of benefits:
- Coverage for medical bills after a workplace accident
- Coverage for physical therapy and ongoing rehabilitation
- Compensation for wages lost during the period of disability
- Vocational training needed to pursue a new career
Even if a worker cannot or will not produce correct immigration documents, the Constitution guarantees equal access to these benefits.
A recent Pennsylvania case
In an important 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared that an immigrant worker from South America was still entitled to workers’ compensation despite his unwillingness to state his legal immigration status. David Cruz was injured on the job while working for an agricultural shipping company in Pennsylvania. When he was asked for his immigration papers, he chose to plead the Fifth Amendment and refused to give any information. A judge declared that his medical benefits should be suspended until he produced evidence of legal immigration status.
Cruz appealed his case to the state Supreme Court, arguing that he had the same right to compensation as any other injured worker. The court ruled in his favor and ordered his former employer to continue paying medical expenses. This precedent emphasizes the constitutional right of employees to seek and receive benefits regardless of their immigration status. It also emphasizes the duty of employers to investigate immigration status before hiring new staff. When workers are injured on the job, employers are always responsible for compensation and may never use doubtful immigration status as a threat.
How does this ruling help American workers?
American immigration law can be exceedingly complicated. Many injured workers have spent months, years or even decades on American soil without proper federal work documentation. This new ruling helps them secure the same basic rights to medical care as other disabled workers. If you are facing a difficult workers’ compensation case, get in touch with a Chicago attorney today to discuss your opti