I’m an undocumented worker without a social security number. Can I get workers’ comp in Georgia?

No matter the term you use, illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants or undocumented workers, Georgia courts have ruled that undocumented workers are entitled to workers’ comp benefits.

Why does workers comp cover undocumented workers?

Workers’ compensation coverage comes via a contract with an insurance provider that includes employees of a qualifying employer. If that employer chooses to hire, or even unknowingly hires, a worker without a Social Security number, permit, visa, etc., and that worker is injured on the job, the employee may file for workers’ comp benefits. His status as an illegal alien will not bar his recovery of disability benefits or medical care related to his on-the-job injury.

In the case of Dynasty Sample Co. v. Beltran, 224 Ga. App. 90 (1996), an undocumented worker suffered a workplace injury.  Because he had misrepresented his immigration status to his employer, the employer argued that their employment contract was void and therefore he would not be entitled to workers’ comp benefits.  The Court found that the misrepresentation did not bar an injured worker from receiving work comp benefits. In Continental PET Technologies, Inc. v Palacias, the Court of Appeals stated that O.C.G.A. §34-9-1 provides that an employee includes “every person in the service of another under any contract of hire” and held that “every person” would necessarily include illegal aliens. 

Workers’ comp complications for undocumented workers

Issues can arise if the employer offers light duty work. Employers can’t use the workers’ comp discovery process to learn the injured worker is an illegal alien, refuse to offer light duty work, and expect to use that as an argument that the worker has refused to attempt light duty such that benefits can be suspended.  However, a light duty job requiring a driver’s license may be used as unjustifiably refused light duty.

If you are an undocumented worker and have questions about how your employer is treating you 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!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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