While the national debate about immigrants and their rights shows no sign of a quick resolution, there are already thousands of immigrants with and without documents living and working across the United States. Undocumented workers are a very important source of work for many businesses across the country and in Massachusetts.
Although federal law specifically prohibits companies from hiring undocumented workers, many businesses do so anyway, in part because they can pay undocumented workers less for dangerous or strenuous work and can often get away with violating their basic rights. Workers isolated by legal and language barriers will be less likely to stand up for themselves when the company they work for does something unsafe or illegal.
Just because you may not have the right paperwork to work in the United States doesn’t mean that your employer can trample all over your basic civil rights. Those rights include the right to fair pay, a safe work environment and protections in the event of a workplace injury or illness. If you get hurt on the job, your immigration status has no impact on your basic rights as an employee.
Undocumented workers have the right to Massachusetts workers’ compensation
If you get hurt on the job or develop a work-related illness due to environmental exposure to pathogens or environmental contaminants, workers’ compensation will provide full medical coverage and temporary or permanent disability benefits to offset any lost wages. These benefits can help you pay your bills and get the care you need to return to the workforce later.
It is not your immigration status but rather your employment status that mandates that your employer provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage. You have the right to file a claim regardless of your immigration status, and neither your employer nor the insurance company should take retaliatory measures against you simply for filing a claim.
Informing immigration authorities of your status or otherwise threatening you with repercussions for your claim is a form of retaliation, which is illegal under federal law. Once you understand that you have the right to seek the benefits owed to any injured worker, it is easier to advocate for yourself.
You have the right to translation services for medical purposes
Many undocumented workers struggle to understand their rights and medical options in part because of a language barrier. If English is not your primary language, you have the right to request translator services at any hospital where you seek treatment for an injury or illness. You should not have to pay for translation services either.
If you worry that your employer may retaliate against you for filing a claim or if you experience difficulty in connecting with the benefits you need after a workplace injury or illness, take steps to document your concerns and your interactions with your employer to better protect yourself and prove what happened, if necessary, in the future.