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Undocumented immigrants have workers’ compensation rights

Whether or not someone is an immigrant is unimportant when it comes to workplace safety. Everyone has the right to a safe job and to seek compensation if they are injured.

Unfortunately, some employers retaliate against employees who file a claim, which is especially concerning for undocumented workers. For example, an undocumented construction worker, Jose Martin Paz Flores, filed a workers’ compensation claim and was retaliated against by his employer. He was in the country without documentation at the time. He has since obtained work authorization and regularly checks in with ICE while pursuing legal status.

The incident

Paz fell from a work ladder in March 2017. Tara Construction, his employer, did not have workers’ compensation insurance after a policy cancellation due to missed payments. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident that autumn.

Pedro Pirez, who runs the company, retaliated against the worker by triggering an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest after Paz reported the injury. Pirez communicated with Boston Police Sergeant Detective Gregory Gallagher, who is in a joint task force with ICE, to confirm when Paz would be at the company’s offices.

How employee rights apply to immigrants

A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) asserts Pirez unlawfully retaliated against Paz. It claimed that Pirez’s actions would "dissuade a reasonable worker from reporting an injury" and asked for Paz to be reimbursed for lost wages.

In most states in the U.S., including California, immigrants who are in the country illegally are still entitled to the same workers’ compensation benefits as citizens. Employers sometimes leverage employees’ immigration statues over anyone who is considering filing a workers’ compensation claim.

The DOL complaint sends a message that immigrant employees have the same legal protections as any worker. However, dealing with immigration court if an employer retaliates is a different battle, and employees may need an immigration attorney to handle that specific legal issue.

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Berke Law Offices, Inc.

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Berke Law Offices, Inc.
21911 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303

Phone: 818-647-1002
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