Archive for the ‘Undocumented Workers’ Category

Undocumented Workers Rights: Workers’ Compensation in NC

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North Carolina is home to about 350,000 undocumented immigrants. These immigrants are an important part of the state’s economy and workforce, performing some of the most dangerous and deadly jobs. A large percentage work in agriculture, construction and manufacturing – industries with significantly higher rates of workplace injuries or deaths.

What are undocumented workers rights? What happens when an undocumented worker is injured on the job? Are undocumented workers entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina? Can an injured worker be deported for filing a workers’ comp claim?

These are questions we hear often from our clients and their family members. Many undocumented workers are rightfully fearful, especially given the current political climate and recent changes to immigration policies. There’s also a lot of misinformation circulating, perpetuated by employers, insurance companies and the workplace rumor mill. This often prevents many immigrants from reporting their on-the-job injuries, getting medical treatment and seeking their lawful workers’ compensation benefits.

Undocumented workers are entitled to the same legal protections as anyone else if they get hurt on the job. So yes, you can get workers’ compensation benefits and medical treatment, even if you are undocumented.

Still, we understand our immigrant and Spanish-speaking clients may have many worries and questions about workers’ compensation:

  • If I report a work injury, can I be deported or will they go after any undocumented family members?
  • Do I have to reveal my immigration status to the judge or others involved in my case?
  • Can I trust my employer, the insurance company or the legal system to do what is right?
  • Who can I trust? How do I know the police officers, judges and other officials I’m dealing with aren’t corrupt?
  • How am I going to get the right medical care when I don’t even speak the same language as my doctor?
  • Will I ever be able to go back to work again?

Let me make my earlier point very clear. 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 and has been upheld by the courts.

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 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.

There are legal protections in place regarding deportation.

Here at the Deuterman Law Group, we take very seriously our role as your legal advocate and the ally. When it comes to justice for clients, money isn’t our only goal. We’re also concerned with our clients’ health and overall wellbeing, and protecting all their legal rights.

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.

When working with our undocumented clients, we do everything within our legal power to make sure the employer doesn’t retaliate by reporting them to immigration officials. We don’t tolerate bullying or threats of deportation from employers who are trying to get out of paying a legitimate workers’ comp claim.

Even so, 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. We can even help you get an interpreter for your medical appointments.

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. It is often a lengthy legal battle. 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.

This article has been updated in August 2018.

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: A New Blog Series

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Today we begin a new series on the blog about the process of applying for workers’ compensation in North Carolina if you are an undocumented worker.

Despite what your employer, the insurance company or coworkers may have told you, if you are hurt at work, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of your immigration status.  These benefits include lost wages and medical treatment, as well as death benefits for family members of workers killed on the job.

Workers’ compensation cases involving undocumented workers can be challenging, and the other side will do everything they can to deny benefits. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced team of attorneys and paralegals working on your behalf. We have an entire bilingual team here at the Deuterman Law Group who are qualified to represent undocumented workers and who will work to get them the full range of benefits they are entitled.

In this multi-part series, we will cover the following:

  • An undocumented workers’ rights under the law
  • Whether you can be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Whether you can be deported for filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • How immigration status affects a workers’ compensation claim
  • Your rights to an interpreter in court and for medical appointments
  • What happens if you’ve worked using a different name or a borrowed Social Security number
  • Where to get medical treatment if you’ve been injured on the job
  • The importance of medical treatment
  • What to do if the company denies you are an employee
  • Determining whether you were an employee or an independent contractor
  • What happens if your employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance
  • The role of our firm investigator plays in collecting evidence for your workers’ comp claim
  • How to prove employment when no official records exist
  • What to expect during a workers’ compensation claim hearing or mediation
  • Death benefits available to the families of workers killed on the job
  • Wrapping up your claim and collecting your benefits

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.”