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Can undocumented workers get workers’ compensation?

If a job-related injury or illness causes you to lose work or spend money on medical bills or medicine, with few exceptions New York’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance program covers some or of all your expenses and losses.

But what if you are an undocumented immigrant?

Uncertainty is often a way of life for American undocumented workers and, in these especially uncertain days, it is no time to lose work from an injury. New York State has laws to make workers’ lives more predictable. The state requires your employer to cover you for your work injuries according to the same rules that apply to all New Yorkers.

New York law is clear about this answer

New York law on workers’ compensation is clear (even if its choice of words is old-fashioned). State law says that New York requires that “compensation under this chapter to aliens … shall be the same in amount as provided for residents.”

Or as the NYC mayor’s office says, “If you get hurt or disabled because of your job, you may be eligible for weekly cash payments and free health care, even if you are paid in cash, paid ‘off the books’, paid as an independent contractor, or not reported to the government as an employee.”

How does workers’ compensation work?

New York state makes employers buy insurance from an insurance company for their workers, so workers do not have to pay for it out of their pockets.

When a worker gets sick or is injured due to their job, a New York state government agency, the Workers’ Compensation Board, watches over the rules. It is up to the law, not the companies, to decide what is supposed to happen.

The rules include what kind of workers the insurance covers, what kind of injuries the state think count as work-related, what kind of benefits the worker gets, how you can appeal decisions you think are wrong and what to do when an employer or insurance company seems to break the law.

Many of these rules are complex. Sometimes it is hard to know if a workers’ job or injuries match up to the rules exactly. And sometimes powerful employers, insurance companies or government decision-makers do the wrong thing. The state has a process for appealing decisions and, under state law, every worker has a right to an attorney in these situations.

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