Threatening to have a worker deported for filing workers’ comp is unethical and Georgia’s Court of Appeals has upheld that undocumented workers who are injured on the job can receive workers’ comp benefits.
Filing a workers’ comp claim does not trigger deportation
Many undocumented workers fear that filing a workers’ comp claim will result in deportation. However, your immigration status is not a part of the filing process.
How the threat of deportation is used against an undocumented worker
Imagine this scenario: A nursing home employee–let’s call her Karen–is injured on the job when she slips and falls on an unmarked wet spot on the floor. She immediately reports the injury to her supervisor and proceeds to file a request for medical benefits, temporary disability benefits, and whatever else she may need in the time that she spends recovering from her injury.
Karen’s employers look over her request for temporary disability and medical benefits, and frankly, they don’t want to play ball. Still, they know that things could get ugly if Karen was outright denied financial and medical support during her time of need. What if she brought in an attorney and sued for late payments and legal fees?
So, instead of playing by the rules, Karen’s employers decide to do a little research on their injured employee. Lo and behold, they find that Karen is not a legal citizen of the United States–her Visa expired ages ago, and she hasn’t made any attempts to renew it.
The next day, Karen’s employer gives her a call, and explains that they will provide her with temporary disability payments, but nothing more. Of course, Karen protests–after all, she wouldn’t have been injured if it weren’t for the careless behavior allowed by the facility. But when she learns her employer knows about her expired Visa, Karen is afraid to press the issue or seek legal assistance.
Despite the widespread discouragement of this practice, it still pops up in unexpected places, ranging from divorces to workers’ compensation cases and medical malpractice suits. Although hope may spring eternal for these attorneys and clients, the fact remains that the civil adjudicative process exists to help settle public disputes, while the criminal justice process is specifically designed for the protection of society — in most civil cases, society as a whole is not placed in jeopardy, and as such, the threat of criminal charges is not only unethical, but wholly irrelevant.
What to do if you are threatened with deportation by an attorney
If a threat is made to have you deported for filing workers’ comp, or to force a lower settlement, by or through an attorney, contact the local bar association and report the behavior immediately, and the offending lawyer will be disciplined.
If you are an undocumented worker and have questions about how you are being treated after an on-the-job injury, feel free to contact my Atlanta workers’ compensation law office for a consultation. ¿No habla inglés? ¡Nuestra oficina de abogados de accidentes de Atlanta también tiene traductores en español disponibles para ayudar!