What Are the Employment Rights of Undocumented Workers in Philadelphia?
Ryan Zavodnick | April 6, 2022 | Pennsylvania Law
There are an estimated 160,000 undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania. Undocumented immigrants are a significant part of the workforce in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. If you are undocumented, you may not have a clear idea of your rights under the law. For example, if you’re undocumented and get hurt on the job, are you entitled to workers’ compensation?
Is Workers’ Compensation Available to Undocumented Workers in Philadelphia?
Yes. This is a straightforward answer in Pennsylvania. In 2002, in The Reinforced Earth Company, v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found that all workers, including undocumented individuals, are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Pennsylvania
If you’re injured on the job in Philadelphia, regardless of your immigration status, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. There can always be exceptions (such as if you are a contractor and not an employee), so it is best to consult with a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney if you think you have a claim.
If you do qualify for workers’ comp in Pennsylvania, your benefits will be determined based on the level of impairment caused by your injury.
If your doctor determines that you are unable to work at all, you are considered totally disabled for purposes of workers’ comp. You are eligible for benefits until you have recovered or until you are able to return to work. This may be to your same job or another job that allows you to earn the same wage.
Total disability payments may begin on a temporary basis. Eventually, your employer may require another medical exam to determine the level of your disability at that time. If you’re still at least 35% impaired, you may continue to receive total disability benefits. If you are less than 35% impaired, you may then switch to partial disability status.
If your disability still allows you to work in some capacity, you may receive benefits for up to 500 weeks. These benefits are available if you can perform a lower-paying job than you performed before you were injured or if you are found not to be totally disabled.
Specific Loss Benefits
You may be entitled to benefits for disfigurement on your head, face, neck, or loss of a specific body part or function. If you lost hearing, sight, or lost (or lost use of) a limb or finger or toe, you could receive a specific loss benefit.
How Much Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Pennsylvania?
If you qualify for workers’ comp benefits, you will receive about two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum set by law. The limit for 2022 is $1205.00 per week.
If you earned less than $669.43 per week prior to your injury, you could receive up to 90% of your gross weekly wages.
Workers’ comp will also cover your medical treatment. You must meet specific requirements when getting medical care in connection with workers’ comp, such as going to a doctor approved by your employer.
Undocumented Workers Are Protected By Anti-Discrimination Laws
Regardless of your immigration status, the law protects you from discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or age. This means that with regard to employment, housing, education, or public accommodations, you have the same protections under civil rights laws that apply to U.S. citizens.
Federal law also protects you from citizenship status discrimination, including immigration status. For example, in the workplace, your employer isn’t allowed to ask for more or different documentation from you than from other applicants or employees based on a suspicion that you may be undocumented.
Protection from Race Discrimination
Undocumented workers are protected by several state and federal laws which prohibit discrimination based on race.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, or religion. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles claims for violations of Title VII.
42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Section 1981)
This is a federal statute that prohibits private, federal, or state entities from intentional discrimination. Undocumented workers are protected under Section 1981.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
There are many laws prohibiting harassment and discrimination, and you are protected no matter what your immigration status.
Labor Laws Protect All Workers Regardless of Immigration Status
Regardless of immigration status, all workers have rights with regard to organizing and participating in unions, minimum wage and overtime pay, and health and safety regulations.
You are protected from wage and hour violations, such as failing to pay you on time, failing to pay required overtime, and failing to pay your wages after the termination of your employment.
Are Undocumented Workers Protected Against Retaliation?
Yes. If you file a complaint based on workplace discrimination or another employment issue, your employer cannot harass or threaten you for doing so.
Many undocumented workers don’t know their rights, and they are intimidated by employers who threaten to report them if they file a complaint about wrongful workplace conditions. But you are entitled to assert your employment rights, and your employer can face punishment for interfering with those rights. It is always good to talk to a lawyer who has experience working with undocumented workers.
Contact Our Workers’ Compensation Law Firm in Philadelphia Today To Get Help With Your Case
You can also visit our law firm at 123 S Broad St #1220, Philadelphia, PA 19109.