Each state has its own Workers Compensation laws. Some states do not allow payments to undocumented workers at all. Other states, like New York, do permit undocumented aliens who are injured on the job to apply for Workers Compensation benefits.
Generally, the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it unlawful for employers to knowingly hire an unauthorized alien. IRCA also prohibits unauthorized aliens from submitting false or forged identity documents in order to obtain employment. Although some states do allow undocumented aliens to apply for Workers Compensation, there is no federal mandate which sets out guidelines for states to follow. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on this issue and clarify it. As a result, states are left to decide for themselves whether undocumented aliens are entitled to receive Workers Compensation benefits.
Many state courts believe that preventing illegal immigrants from applying for Workers Compensation creates a financial incentive for employers to hire undocumented aliens. Such practices directly contradict the stated purposes of IRCA. Further, granting employers immunity from paying Workers Compensation benefits to illegal aliens makes them less inclined to maintain safety in the workplace
These issues are often difficult to resolve and seem to be in conflict with federal immigration law. If you are an undocumented worker who is injured on the job, it is important that you discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney to see if you can apply for Workers Compensation.