Undocumented Workers Should File Claims

     It is a surprise to most undocumented workers in Nevada that they have almost as many rights as documented employees and U.S. citizens under Nevada's workers compensation system.   Many injured workers without proper documentation worry about deportation or not having  a job to  go back to when they are done getting medical care.  They think that their employer will be at risk of heavy fines by ICE officials for hiring illegal employees.  However, what usually happens is that ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) doesn't get involved.

     The only group of benefits that are not available to illegal workers are vocational rehabilitation services and benefits.   When an injured worker is finally released from medical care for his injury, if his doctor gives the worker permanent work restrictions, the employer may not have work that can accommodate the restrictions.  If the worker were legal, he would then get bi-weekly checks while he either participates in a job retraining  program or elects a vocational settlement.  However, if the worker is illegal, the bi-weekly checks end, and the claim is closed.  

     The illegal worker needs to file a workers' comp claim like his legal co-workers so that he can get medical care, bi-weekly checks if he is out of work, and a permanent partial disability award for a serious, permanent injury.  If the illegal worker does not file a claim, he giving up getting free medical care and settlement money.

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Undocumented Workers Are Entitled to Most Work Comp Benefits

Injured workers in Nevada who do not have proper written proof of their right to legally work in the United States are entitled to the same benefits as any other injured worker, except for vocational rehabilitation benefits.  All injured workers are entitled to medical care for a work-related injury while working for a Nevada employer, even if they are working in the United States illegally. 

The injured worker does need to be able to prove that he was working for a Nevada employer at the time of the accident at work.  That may be difficult if he is paid cash instead of a proper paycheck.

Assuming that the worker lied to the employer about immigration status to get the job, the worker is nonetheless entitled to medical and most compensation benefits once the employment relationship is proven.  

In addition, undocumented workers may receive temporary total disability benefits, payable at 66 2/3 of their average monthly wage, up to the state maximum, if they are taken off work by their treating physician as a result of the work accident.   These compensation benefits are also payable if the employer is unable to provide temporary light duty employment while the injured worker is treating for his injury.  Even more surprising to most undocumented injured workers, they are entitled to receive a permanent partial disability award at the end of treatment  for any permanent injuries.  

What undocumentated injured workers  may not receive are vocational rehabilitation benefits.   Only injured workers who have an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 that can be verified, are  entitled to a continuation of bi-weekly checks while he or she participates in a retraining program.    And, only documented injured workers may request a vocational rehabilitation lump sum buy-out if they chose not to participate in retraining.   

Most workers' compensation attorneys offer a free consultation to reveiw your particular case to advise you.   Don't make the mistake of thinking that you cannot get proper medical care or compensation benefits or  an award just because you are in the United States working illegally.  Call for a free Guide to Nevada Workers' Compensation Law in Spanish.  (702) 699-5336.

--Written by