Are Injured Undocumented Workers Entitled to Wage Replacement Benefits

While the specific answer to this question differs slightly in each state, an Iowa Supreme Court decision is illustrative of the public policy perspective that generally guides a state’s thinking on this issue.

The Iowa Supreme Court has found that there can be no difference between an undocumented worker and the workers compensation benefits an employer provides to other employees. Undocumented workers are not to be excluded from receiving those benefits when a workplace injury occurred.

The court ruling stemmed from a previous legal case where an undocumented worker was awarded healing period benefits following a workplace accident that resulted in an injury. The court cited Connecticut documentation in its ruling that stated the federal immigration statute was designed to restrict employers from hiring undocumented workers. It was not designed to obstruct undocumented workers from being awarded workers compensation benefits when injuries occurred.

The court further found that employers hired undocumented workers under the expectation of not having to provide those workers with benefits was counter to the public good and the Iowa Workers Compensation Act.

States will not allow employers to hire undocumented workers in order to skirt the workers’ compensation regulations that are specifically designed provide protection for all employees who are injured in the workplace.

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