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Study: Undocumented Workers Face Danger on the Job

A study conducted recently by a team of researchers with Cornell University and Penn State University reveals that undocumented Mexican workers receive no wage premium for working in hazardous conditions, whereas most other groups do.
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The study, The Occupational Cost of Being Illegal in the United States: Legal Status, Job Hazards, and Compensating Differentials, published in the journal International Migration Review, indicates these workers receive low or no compensating differential, despite working in fields where the fatality rate, exposure to toxic materials and the risk of falls is high.

Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers know that employers of undocumented workers take advantage of the fear that any reporting of work injuries might result in potential deportation.

Some of the factors that result in a greater degree of danger for undocumented workers, according to study authors, include language barriers that hinder safety training. In industries like construction and manufacturing, this critical lapse can and do result in serious injuries.

Researchers analyzed data between 2004 and 2008 from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on the issue, a number of state courts have determined undocumented employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when they have been injured on the job.

One of those, Staff Management v. Jimenez, was decided last year by the Iowa Supreme Court. In this case, the worker came to the U.S. legally from Mexico on a visa permitting her to stay and work for 10 years. After that time, the government did not extend her visa, meaning she was no longer allowed to work legally. However, she retained employment with a temp agency, which assigned her to work for Proctor & Gamble in a manufacturing plant, where she was required to lift pallets and boxes weighing up to 60 pounds.

One day, she was rushed to the hospital for abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with two hernias and required surgery. Her return to work was brief due to the pain.

The following year, the temp agency fired her for lack of verification to work in the country. Meanwhile, she continued to suffer complications from those hernias, which doctors indicated were the direct result of her work.

She filed for workers’ compensation benefits, and was awarded them by a deputy commissioner following a hearing. In addition to weekly benefits, she was entitled to coverage of all work-related injury medical bills – including those in the future.

The temporary agency appealed the ruling. However, it was affirmed by both the full commission, the hearing court and the Iowa Supreme Court.

Similar findings were reached in Nebraska last year with the state supreme court’s ruling in Moyera v. Quality Pork International and in Delaware in 2012 with the state supreme court’s ruling in Delaware Valley Field Services v. Saul Melgar Ramirez.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.

Additional Resources:
The Occupational Cost of Being Illegal in the United States: Legal Status, Job Hazards, and Compensating Differentials, May 14, 2014, By H. Roger Segelken, Cornell Chronicle

More Blog Entries:
Documentation of Work Injury Imperative for Successful Claim, March 24, 2014, Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Blog