Immigration Status Has No Bearing on Workers’ Compensation Claims, Court Rules
Undocumented immigrants are eligible for workers' compensation benefits, including health care benefits, if they are hurt on the job, a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some experts said the ruling marked the first case of a California appeals court specifically upholding undocumented immigrants' right to health care and disability benefits for work-related injuries, according to the Times.
In the case, an undocumented immigrant allegedly hurt his shoulders, back, neck and hands by repeatedly lifting heavy sacks of coffee beans for Farmer Bros. The company argued that the worker was ineligible for workers' compensation benefits because he used fraudulent papers to get hired, a violation of state insurance laws.
The three-judge panel unanimously rejected that argument, stating, "California law has expressly declared immigration status irrelevant to the issue of liability to pay compensation to an injured worker."
The ruling upheld an earlier decision by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.
Susan Gard, a spokesperson for the Division of Workers' Compensation, said that eliminating the requirement for California employers to provide health care services for injuries incurred at work and pay minimum wage would create an "incentive to hire illegal workers."
Jim Lucas, a Farmer Bros. spokesperson, declined to comment on the ruling, the Times reports (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 10/19).