The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is designed to provide medical benefits to workers who have been injured on the job as well as wage replacement while a worker is unable to work following a work-related injury. Like many other states, Massachusetts has had to face the legal questions that arise when an undocumented alien applies for workers’ compensation benefits. Also like most other states, Massachusetts has decided that a workers’ status in the United States is not a factor when deciding whether the worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Massachusetts settled the issue of workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented aliens back in 2003 when a construction worker who admitted that he was in the country illegally applied for workers’ compensation benefits after receiving lasting injuries on the job. The case made its way through the Department of Industrial Accidents, or DIA, where the original decision to grant the worker benefits was upheld. Massachusetts is hardly alone in its stance on this issue. Most other states have similar policies or have taken similar legal positions regarding workers’ compensation benefits and undocumented aliens.
The Arguments For and Against
Those who are against allowing undocumented aliens the benefits of workers’ compensation often base their legal argument on the fact that an illegal alien cannot legally work in the United States. Thus, since an illegal alien is not a legal employee, he or she is not entitled to any of the benefits offered to legal employees.
Those who are in favor of allowing undocumented aliens to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits argue that disqualifying illegal aliens from receiving workers’ compensation benefits will simply push them toward the tort system, where employers will likely face much higher costs because there are no caps or pre-set benefit amounts in the tort system. In addition, they argue that unscrupulous employers may be more likely to hire undocumented aliens if they know they will never have to pay workers’ compensation benefits for them.
The Bottom Line
In Massachusetts, the bottom line is that a worker’s legal status in the United States is irrelevant when determining whether the individual is entitled to benefits. If you are a Massachusetts worker and you have been injured on the job, do not let your immigration status prevent you from seeking the benefits to which you are entitled under the workers’ compensation system. You may be entitled to treatment for the injuries you have suffered as well as wage replacement for the time you are unable to work as a result of the injuries you suffered. If you are concerned about how your status in the United States could be affected by filing a workers’ compensation claim, explain your situation to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney prior to filing your claim.
Contact the Massachusetts workplace injury lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., if you need assistance with filing a claim or appealing a denial by calling 800-367-0871 or by using our online contact form.