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Workers’ Compensation and Illegal Immigrants

Under Pennsylvania law, illegal immigrants can apply for Workers’ Compensation if they are injured while working. See, Reinforced Earth Co. v. W.C.A.B. (Astudillo), 810 A.2d 99 (Pa. 2002). In Reinforced Earth, the plaintiff was a maintenance helper and assisted with cutting and welding iron and climbing scaffolds and ladders while lifting steel beams. Id. at 101.  While working, he was struck in the head, neck and back with a steel beam and diagnosed with a concussion, mild head injury and back strain and sprain. Id. Even though he was an illegal immigrant, the court held that he was allowed to receive Workers’ Compensation because the purpose of the law is to protect those who need protection, including those individuals here illegally. Id. at 105. Additionally, the court found that not allowing the plaintiff to receive Workers’ Compensation would reward companies for not inquiring as to a worker’s legal status before hiring. Id. at n. 8.

However, there is a limit to the compensation an injured illegal immigrant worker is allowed to receive. Mora v. W.C.A.B. (DDP Contracting Co., Inc, and Penn National Insurance), 845 A.2d 950, 952 (Commw. Pa. 2004). In Mora, the court held that when an illegal immigrant is able to go back to any type of work, his or her workers’ compensation can be suspended. Id. Mora went from working full-time and earning $800.00 a week to working only part-time and earning only $140.00 a week. Id. The court reasoned that there was a large price gap in the paychecks because the plaintiff was illegal, not because of injuries on the job, and therefore stopped workers’ compensation. Id.

At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C., our Pennsylvania and New Jersey attorneys handle many types of legal matters, including immigrant discrimination. To arrange a consultation with a knowledgeable employment lawyer in Philadelphia, call 215-574-0600 or contact us online.