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Are Undocumented Workers Entitled to Workers’ Comp Benefits?

Which Employees are Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

In areas of the country with higher undocumented populations, many questions can arise regarding employer liability and employee safety —one of the most common involving which employees are covered under workers' compensation laws and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, citizenship status is a protected class, meaning that workers cannot be discriminated against based on whether they are undocumented. This means that any employee, regardless of citizenship, is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The Georgia Workers' Compensation Act (GWCA) reinforces these protections.

What Georgia Courts Say About Undocumented Workers

The laws surrounding workers' compensation for undocumented employees have been heavily debated in Georgia courts for years. One of the most notable cases, Continental PET Technologies v. Palacias (2004), held that the state's definition of employee —"every person in the service of another under any contract of hire"—included undocumented workers. It furthermore expressed that "As written, the IRCA does not prohibit unauthorized aliens from receiving state workers' compensation benefits..."

Undocumented workers are also protected in that an employer may not use a workers' compensation claim or their citizenship status as grounds for termination. However, this does not mean that you cannot be fired while on leave for your injury or performing the light duties offered while in recovery.

Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

The team at The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia and Alabama and has over 20 years of combined experience handling workers' compensation cases.

Regardless of your citizenship status, every injured worker deserves to seek recovery. If you need assistance filing your claim or are facing retaliation for doing so, call (770) 629-9321 to get in touch with a member of our team. Multilingual consultations are available.

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