|Legal or illegal workers in New York have rights under state law|
New York has a rich history of immigration and the Irish community makes up a large portion of the working immigrant population here – both documented and undocumented. Immigration reform is, of course, a divisive political issue at the moment and how it is ultimately resolved by the current (or subsequent) administration remains to be seen. However, while the politicians debate and cajole each other, the everyday immigrant worker just wants to earn a living.
I have spoken to many undocumented workers in New York and they share many of the same questions and concerns about their situation. The question I would like to specifically address is the following: what legal rights does an undocumented worker have in New York if he or she is injured on the job?
At the outset, most undocumented workers worry about having any contact with the legal system whatsoever for fear of getting in trouble or even being deported and separated from their family and friends here in New York.
As a personal injury attorney, I have represented many injured construction workers in New York who are undocumented and they, along with all undocumented workers, need to know that they have legal rights and protections in New York State. You also have the benefit of attorney/client confidentiality when consulting with a lawyer.
First of all, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law provides that undocumented workers in New York are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job regardless of their immigration status. This law has also been upheld by the New York State Courts despite any U.S. Federal law that prohibits an employer from hiring undocumented workers. If you are employed in New York State, you are entitled to be covered by workers’ compensation.
However, workers’ compensation will only cover a portion of a worker’s medical costs and lost wages. In the case of construction workers, the New York State Labor Law provides extensive regulations for New York construction sites. If a worker is injured due to negligence or a violation of the Labor Law (or perhaps both), he or she may be entitled to sue the site owner, general contractor or other contractor at the site for their pain and suffering (as well as claim workers’ compensation benefits through their employer’s insurance).
Importantly, the New York State Courts have also held that undocumented workers are entitled to sue and collect money damages in a personal injury case regardless of their immigration status.
The bottom line is this: an undocumented worker in New York should not be afraid to seek legal counsel if he or she is injured on the job. Never assume that an accident is your fault and do not let your immigration status deter you from protecting your legal rights.
For more information or to contact me directly, please visit my website at WWW.ROBDUNNELAW.COM