Archive for the ‘Undocumented Workers’ Category

Workers Compensation for Undocumented Workers, Part 3: Handling Challenging Claims

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This is Part 3 of our series on workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants. You can find links to the entire series here.

It is not unusual for undocumented workers to use a pseudonym, or false name, when seeking employment. In fact, it’s not unusual for several people to share the same pseudonym.

It’s important your attorney know if you used a pseudonym for employment or medical treatment. It could complicate your case, but it does not mean you are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment.

Attorneys are ethically prohibited from including a false name on a Form 18, which is used to report a workplace injury to the N.C. Industrial Commission and the employer. That’s why it’s important that our clients tell us if they have used someone else’s name, birth date or documentation to get a job or medical care.

Sometimes, if a pseudonym is being used for medical treatment by multiple people, many health care providers will flag this as fraud and will not turn over the medical records. If they do release the records, questions can arise about whether medical treatment was obtained by the injured worker or someone else using the same name and birth date.

We have dealt with these issues before, and we’ve been successful in navigating the complications that arise when someone uses a psuedonym.

At the Deuterman Law Group, we pursue all avenues to obtain our clients’ complete and accurate medical records and other evidence necessary to litigate claims. We don’t just work the telephones or email; we have even driven to medical providers’ offices in the past to get the appropriate records!

Language barriers in Workers’ Comp Cases

As I mentioned earlier in this series, our workers’ compensation team speaks fluent Spanish, and they are uniquely qualified to cater to the Hispanic population.

Language and cultural barriers can cause lots of problems in workers’ compensation cases. It’s not unusual for these issues to lead to inaccurate reports in medical records, accident reports and other documents.

If that’s the situation in your case, don’t worry. All hope is not lost. When working with our Spanish-speaking clients, we take the time to ask about and investigate inaccuracies. Our goal is to find out how these inaccuracies happened and to find a logical explanation to preserve your claim.

All of our clients have the opportunity to meet with an attorney at the start of their claim. From the very beginning, we will address any immediate issues in the claim. We will go over basics of workers’ compensation and outline your responsibilities and ours throughout the claim. We don’t want you to be surprised by anything that happens as your case progresses.

As mentioned previously, one of the issues we will deal with when handling an undocumented worker’s claim is whether to disclose that person’s immigration status. Anything you tell your attorney or paralegal about your immigration status is confidential. You can read more about how immigration status affects a workers’ comp claim here.

Many insurance adjusters will ask the injured worker about their immigration status in a recorded statement. Many times, these interviews are conducted before the injured worker hires an attorney.

We recommend that injured workers do not participate in a recorded statement before talking to an attorney.

At the Deuterman Law Group, we take seriously our role as your advocate. We prepare our clients to make a recorded statement by telling them what to expect and informing them of common questions asked during these interviews.

Talking to an attorney before giving a recorded statement is especially important for injured workers who do not speak English.

While the insurance company should provide an interpreter, many adjusters will conduct the recorded statement in English. As you can imagine, this can cause all sorts of problems.

Even if an interpreter is provided, we don’t advise our clients to use the one hired by the insurance company.

When our clients are providing a recorded statement, we will also provide an interpreter from our office. It is not uncommon for an interpreter to have a different dialect and completely misinterpret something. An English speaker would not have someone filtering his responses, so we will not let the interpreter filter for our Spanish-speaking clients either.

Our attorneys actively participate when clients provide a recorded statement to an adjuster. We will object to issues with the interpreter and also to any questions about immigration status.

 

Workers’ Compensation for Undocumented Workers, Part 2: Your Rights Under NC Law

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This is Part 2 of our series on workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants. You can find links to the entire series here.

North Carolina is home to about 250,000 undocumented immigrants, who represent more than 5 percent of the state’s labor force.

These workers are entitled to the same legal protections as anyone else if they get hurt on the job. But fear and intimidation prevent many of these undocumented workers from reporting their injuries and seeking the medical treatment and compensation they need and rightfully deserve.

Your immigration status has no bearing on your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina. That’s the truth, no matter what anyone else has told you, including your boss or your coworkers.

Your right to workers’ compensation – including payment for lost wages and medical treatment – is spelled out in state law.

If you are undocumented and living and working in North Carolina, your fear of deportation is very real. We understand that you may not want to rock the boat or risk leaving the life you’ve built here by reporting that you’ve been hurt at work.

But keeping quiet will not help you heal. It will not pay your medical bills. It will not provide for your family when you’re in too much pain to work.

Please know that as your attorney, anything you tell us is confidential. That means we will not reveal your immigration status.

As for the other side in the case, legal ethics rules are also very clear. The defense attorney and the insurance carrier in your workers’ compensation case ethically cannot use information discovered in the course of the claim to report the injured worker to ICE.

However, the individuals in the claim (namely employers, particularly those who are uninsured) are not bound by these same ethical rules. We will also do everything within our legal power to make sure your employer doesn’t retaliate by reporting you to immigration officials. We won’t tolerate bullying or threats of deportation from employers who are trying to get out of paying a legitimate workers’ comp claim.

Knowing this, we understand it can be extremely stressful and frightening to file a workers’ compensation claim if you are undocumented. But trust me when I say we have lots of experience with these types of cases and many good outcomes for our clients. We also understand the cultural and language issues involved in these types of cases.

Our workers’ compensation team speaks fluent Spanish, and they are uniquely qualified to cater to the Hispanic population.

We will work hard to earn your trust and fight for your case. And we also keep you informed every step of the way, through face-to-face meetings, telephone updates or whatever method you prefer. We do not charge for these meetings or phone conferences.

We provide copies of most documents in Spanish and in English for our clients, and we do not charge our Spanish speakers for the use of an interpreter.

Please keep these things in mind as you decide whether to file a workers’ compensation claim or keep silent about your injury.

You’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring your injury and working through the pain.

This is what many employers expect you to do. Many companies knowingly hire undocumented workers as a way of avoiding their legal and moral obligation to keep their workers safe. They know many undocumented immigrants will not pursue workers’ compensation benefits because they’re afraid of being discovered.

These companies are doing something illegal, too. It is illegal for them to hire undocumented workers, but they do it anyway to keep their labor and safety costs down. These companies know it’s illegal to have an unsafe workplace, but they know many undocumented workers won’t report them.

It is a terrible cycle that victimizes undocumented workers.

North Carolina companies who have more than three employees are legally required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their entire workforce. When someone is hurt (or killed) on the job, they owe the injured worker (or their family) compensation for injuries, lost wages and medical care. Companies that break the law can face stiff fines, and their owners can face serious criminal charges.

Filing and collecting on a workers’ compensation claim can be challenging for any injured person. But it can be especially difficult for undocumented immigrants. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney and legal team whose sole focus is workers’ compensation working on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected and you get the benefits you deserve.

A Few Facts and Figures About Undocumented Workers

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Undocumented workers have an enormous impact on the U.S. economy, as these statistics from the Center for American Progress illustrate:

  • There are an estimated 7.2 million undocumented immigrants (out of some 12 million undocumented immigrants) who work in the United States. That’s 4.9 percent of the civilian labor force.
  • Undocumented workers contribute an estimated $7 billion per year to the Social Security Trust Fund through payroll taxes paid on Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers and fraudulent Social Security numbers.
  • The United States would face a shortfall of 2.5 million low-skill workers if undocumented workers were removed from the labor force.

Cultural differences, deportation fears affect reporting of workers’ compensation cases among Latinos

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Found an interesting article on the Hispanic Trending, Latino Marketing & Advertising Blog on the key to understanding the Latino worker to improve communication and productivity at work.

Although a diverse group, Latino culture shares a lot of the same values including unquestioning respect and deference to authority figures such as work supervisors, foremen, business owners and they like, and they won’t disagree or question a person in authority. Latinos, generally, trust mostly family, extended family members and other Latinos and are likely to not trust employers, especially if they are non-Latino. They don’t want to rock the boat and many fear deportation so the potential for underreporting safety issues, injuries and other problems at the workplace is huge.

Distressingly, the blog also reports that fatalities among Latinos have increased 67 percent between 1992 and 2001. Even worse, these grim statistics may underestimate the problem because of underreporting when illegal immigrants are involved.

Indeed, cultural differences and fears of deportation are likely keeping many Latinos from reporting injuries that happen on the job and claiming workers’ compensation benefits that are due them.

I think it’s important to once again emphasize that under the law undocumented workers are entitled to the same benefits if they are injured or killed on the job.

For the full story:

HispanicTrending – http://juantornoe.blogs.com/hispanictrending/

Construction death in Utah highlights safety issues for immigrant workers

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A man from El Salvador, who had legal permission to work in the United States, was killed last week after falling to his death on a construction job, according to a report in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.

Francisco Antonio Alaman-Renderoz, 45, fell to his death while putting in a fireplace wall during construction of a private cabin. According to OSHA regulations, construction workers should use a harness, safety line or railing f they’re working at heights over six feet.  Alaman-Renderoz, who was working 25 to 35 feet off the ground , was not wearing any kind of safety equipment when he fell.

This tragic story illustrates the danger that many Hispanic workers face every day when the go to work. Hispanics hold a quarter of all construction jobs, according to the Pew Hispanic Center and that puts them at high risk for on-the-job injuries and even death.

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Undocumented worker’s family sues for WC benefits after he was killed on the job.

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In Georgia, the family of a Mexican construction worker who was killed on the job are suing for workers’ compensation benefits.

 

Evaristo Enrique Chimal Librado, 43, was killed when a house he was helping to build collapsed on him. He was an undocumented worker from Mexico.

 

By Georgia law, a maximum workers’ compensation award would provide Librado’s family with the greater of two-thirds of Librado’s salary for 400 weeks, or $125,000, according to an article at MainStreetNews.com. It would also provide a $7,500 death benefit.

 

Even though Librado wasn’t in this country legally, he should still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But this case is complicated by the fact that Librado worked for a subcontractor. Attorneys for his family are still trying to sort out who his direct employer was and therefore which company is legally responsible for his injuries.

Another Workers’ Comp Myth Debunked: Undocumented workers are entitled to benefits

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Workers’ compensation for undocumented workers is a hot button issue right now.

Stats show that Latino workers are injured on the job at a disproportionate rate.

The real tragedy occurs when an undocumented worker is injured. Many employers try to deny these employees workers’ compensation benefits, and they’re often successful in doing so.

According to an article from McClatchy Newspapers:

"In one national study, university researchers surveyed 2,660 day laborers, most of them working illegally. One in five said he’d suffered a work injury. Among those who were hurt in the last year, 54 percent said they didn’t receive the medical care they needed, and only 6 percent got workers’ comp benefits."

But the law is clear.  Undocumented workers, even if they are working in the U.S. illegally are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits — lost wages and medical treatment.

From the same article:

"Employers in at least 20 states, arguing that their employees shouldn’t receive injury benefits because they’re illegal immigrants, have fought and lost in courts and review boards. Among those employees were a California laborer who hurt his back lifting sacks of coffee, an Arizona auto mechanic who was hit in the eye by flying debris, a Maryland carpenter who cut his hand on a saw, and a North Carolina construction worker who suffered a brain injury when he fell 30 feet onto a concrete floor."

I encourage you to read the entire McClatchy article to learn more about how some workers are being denied benefits to which they are lawfully entitled.

Greater media coverage of undocumented workers exposes high injury rate

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The issues regarding Immigration reform has brought media attention to the plight of undocumented workers and their work conditions. As a result, more and more articles are exposing the unfair treatment and work conditions that undocumented workers are subjected to. 

We have created a new category , "Undocumented workers and Workers’ Compensation" and hope to compile more stories and comments about this emerging issue. 

In the past, we have rarely seen WC claims filed by hispanic workers. The number one reason preventing this is fear of deportation of not only themselves, but also their families. We hope that further discussion and exposure will give people confidence to come forth.

In North Carolina, undocumented workers are entitled to workers’ compensation.  Many people are unaware of this including insurance adjusters who wrongly deny claims because they feel undocumented workers should not be entitled to such a benefit.