Are undocumented workers' entitled to workers' comp benefits?

The answer is a clear "yes". If you are in Florida from another country, you are not excluded from workers' compensation benefits. The workers' comp statute defines an employee as one who receives remuneration for work "whether lawfully or unlawfully employed and includes, but is not limited to, aliens and minors." (Fla. Stat. 440.02.) Courts in Florida have interpreted this statute to hold employers responsible when they knowingly hire undocumented aliens.

If an undocumented alien is injured on the job, it is important for that worker to not provide false social security information when reporting their accident. Some people will provide a false social security number to obtain employment. This alone does not disqualify you from workers' compensation benefits. If however, after an accident occurs, the injured worker provides the false social security information to the insurance company, a different result occurs. By providing false information to the insurance company, you can provide the insurance company a reason to deny your claim entirely.

Another area of special concern to undocumented workers is income taxes. The workers' comp statute requires that earnings be reported for federal income tax purposes in order to count as wages. If earnings aren't reported, there are no wages for workers' comp purposes and an injured worker will only receive medical care. Many people who are paid cash do not declare this income to the federal government. This can be a costly mistake on several levels.

If you are injured on the job in Florida, don't let your immigration status keep you from consulting an attorney. Your communications to the lawyer are protected by attorney client privilege, and he or she can provide potentially valuable advice.

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