Undocumented immigrants have enough difficulty finding work, but when accidents happen, they are sometimes faced with difficult choices. Many undocumented workers have not advised their superiors of their status—but to have a chance at obtaining workers’ compensation, they may have to do so, and even then, they will likely be denied. If you are undocumented and have been injured, it is important that you fully understand your situation and act accordingly.
A Pattern of Mistreatment
Most people are under the impression that undocumented workers are not entitled to any kind of protection under United States’ employment laws. However, while the undocumented have no legal right to employment itself, once they have obtained it they are covered by many of the same regulations as documented immigrant and citizen workers. Laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) do not specifically exclude the undocumented from their protections, which means that they do still apply.
However, there is a pervasive trend of employers willfully denying those rights to undocumented workers, often to the degree that it becomes abusive. While undocumented workers are often rightly let go after their Social Security numbers cannot be verified, many are let go even before that point, and a case can be made that it is often because of protesting unsafe or unjust working conditions. Some of the occurrences that undocumented workers most often report facing include:
Workers’ compensation is a particular concern, given that very often, undocumented workers are the sole support for their families. It is not at all uncommon for employers to threaten to call immigration to report an undocumented worker if they attempt to collect workers’ compensation or lost wages due to injury. Some have even faced physical threats for their attempts to receive what they are owed under law. It is depressingly regular that even though the employer may hire undocumented workers and risk violating the law, the undocumented worker is the one who suffers, being denied their legal rights.
The Situation in Illinois
Despite the universally difficult situation for undocumented workers, Illinois has enacted several provisions that have eased at least some concerns. The most important law is the Day and Temporary Labor Services Act (DTLSA), which explicitly safeguards certain rights of day and temporary laborers (many of whom are undocumented immigrants, given that identification is not often required for temporary jobs). The Illinois Department of Labor also actively pursues matters of wage theft and retaliation.
The Illinois Human Rights Act also contains a provision that states that any alleged discrimination based on immigration status will be monitored; if it is found to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (which prevents blackmail or retaliation against someone based on their immigration status) action will be taken. A large part of the reason that undocumented workers are mistreated and denied benefits is because many of them are too frightened to complain—fear of retaliation almost always means fear of deportation, when immigration status should not enter into the equation.
Get a Chicago Immigration Attorney on Your Side
If you are undocumented and you have been hurt on the job, or you are forced to work in dangerous conditions, having a seasoned legal professional on your side can make all the difference. The dedicated Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC know the ins and outs of dealing with employers and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and we will do our best to ensure your interests are well represented. Contact us today to discuss your options.
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