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Are Undocumented Workers Entitled To Workers’ Compensation Benefits?


Undocumented workers make up a significant portion of the workforce. This is particularly true in the state of Florida, and even more so after a superstorm like Ian comes through and causes significant damage to buildings and infrastructure.

As discussed in a recent USA Today article, for several years migrant workers have made up the main labor force rebuilding cities after natural disasters. Many of these workers are undocumented, meaning that they are living and working in the United States without a legal immigration status. This status can happen through individuals crossing through land borders without permission and inspection of the U.S. Government, or by individuals legally entering the country under a legitimate visa and then overstaying that visa, leaving them in an undocumented status. These individuals are also often referred to as “illegal immigrants.”

As thousands of these workers are expected to find work in Florida to rebuild after the recent hurricane, the question of what rights these workers have to potential workers’ compensation claims becomes very relevant.

Are Undocumented/Illegal Immigrant Workers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (ICRA) prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring, recruiting, or referring undocumented/illegal immigrants for work in the United States. Even so, once these individuals have been hired to work, most states, including Florida, recognize that these individuals are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The Insurance Information Institute states that most insurers favor keeping coverage for undocumented workers, reporting that to enact a policy of denying workers’ compensation benefits to these scores of individuals, who often do dangerous work, would run counter to public policy and humanitarian ideals.

In Florida, Fla Stat 440.02 establishes that an employee is a person who receives remuneration for their work, whether that be lawful or unlawful employment. This includes any person considered to be an undocumented/illegal worker. Generally speaking, Florida courts have held employers responsible for workers’ compensation benefits for an illegal/undocumented employee.

Items to Be Wary of

While the courts in Florida have shown a propensity to holding employers responsible for honoring workers’ compensation claims of undocumented immigrants, due to the nature of undocumented immigrants’ legal status it is important that these individuals work with an experienced attorney to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. There are some additional considerations that must be weighed by these workers when deciding to pursue a claim, including the following.

  • Does Your Employer Report Taxes?

Florida law requires employers to report salaries and wages for federal income tax purposes in order to qualify as “income” for the purpose of calculating and awarding workers’ compensation benefits. However, if no earnings are reported, no listed income exists, meaning that if a claim was submitted the employee’s right to wage loss could be limited.

Contact the Musleh Law Firm

Workers’ compensation claims are often complex and always merit the guidance of experienced, knowledgeable legal counsel. The competent, practiced Ocala workers’ compensation attorneys at the Musleh Law Firm know how important it is to get the answers you need and representation you deserve. Contact our firm today to discuss your case and see how our experience can work for you.


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