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2024 Do Undocumented Workers Get Workers’ Compensation in California?

In California, there were estimated to be 1.85 million undocumented immigrants in 2021 without work authorization. To sustain their livelihoods, undocumented immigrants often take on dangerous jobs, commonly in the domestic work, agriculture, and construction industries. Employers are required to hold workers’ comp insurance, but those working without papers are likely wondering, “Do undocumented workers get workers’ compensation in California?”

Due to the dangerous nature of the jobs that undocumented workers take on, injuries tend to be more common and often can include heat stroke, falls from heights, and accidents involving heavy machinery. By understanding their worker’s rights and entitlements under California state and federal law, Californians who are working without authorization can ensure they take advantage of the benefits available to them without fearing retaliation or penalty.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for California’s Undocumented Workers

Undocumented workers in California are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job or develop a work-related condition or illness. Under California Labor Code Section 3351, employees are specifically defined to be a person in the service of an employer and covers both lawfully and unlawfully employed individuals. Therefore, an employee’s entitlement to access workers’ compensation benefits is not dependent on their immigration status.

Under California law, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover the expenses of their employees in the event that they are injured on the job or get a work-related injury or disease. Workers’ compensation insurance is no-fault, meaning that except for some instances, workers can receive workers’ comp payments regardless of who was liable for causing the accident that led to injuries.

Workers’ compensation payments can cover medical expenses, which include hospital bills, surgery fees, medical device and medication costs, diagnostics, clinic visits, and more. Workers’ compensation payments can also cover lost wages from being out of work; however, this may be difficult for undocumented workers to obtain if they are fired.

Understanding Workers’ Rights for Undocumented Employees

California’s Labor Code establishes the same basic rights and protections for undocumented workers as workers who are authorized to be employed. Such rights include protection from workplace retaliation or discrimination, healthy and safe working conditions, and the right to apply to receive workers’ compensation benefits in the case of a work-related injury.

According to Labor Code Section 1171.5, a person’s immigration status is not relevant to the issue of liability, meaning that through any legal processes to enforce state law, a person cannot be inquired about their immigration status. This means that in cases of serious recklessness, negligence, or maltreatment on the employer’s behalf, an undocumented immigrant can pursue civil charges against them without having to fear being asked about their immigration status.

Even though employers are responsible for hiring people who are authorized to work, they can face issues if they are discriminatory in terms of their hiring practices. Such discriminatory practices can include asking for a US passport and persistently asking about an employee’s immigration status, which can be a crime of discrimination based on national origin under federal law.

For undocumented workers, understanding their employee rights under the law can be complex and confusing. By working with an experienced employment lawyer, undocumented workers in California can ensure their rights and interests are protected and get access to the benefits to which they are entitled.


Q: Who Is Excluded From Workers’ Compensation in California?

A: There are certain people who may not have access to coverage under the CA state workers’ compensation system, including independent contractors, volunteers in the organization, some agricultural workers, domestic workers, and certain employees working for small businesses. There are additionally some types of employees, such as executive officers of businesses or certain professional athlete groups, who can opt to have their workers’ comp coverage waived.

Q: What Benefits Can Undocumented Immigrants Get in California?

A: Undocumented immigrants in the state of California can receive some services and benefits, such as workers’ compensation, public education, access to Medi-Cal, and other social services. Furthermore, they are entitled to some paid disability benefits and family leave benefits in the state. However, they may not have access to benefits that a documented immigrant or US citizen might have access to, such as certain financial assistance programs. Public benefits that are only available for “qualified” immigrants include supplemental security income (SSI) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or CalFresh.

Q: Who Is Eligible for California Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

A: In the state of California, most employees have access to workers’ compensation benefits in case they are injured at work or suffer from a work-related illness or condition. Eligible individuals include part-time and full-time employees, temporary workers, and certain eligible independent contractors. To understand whether you are entitled to receive workers’ comp, it’s critical to speak with an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can provide you with a more accurate answer based on your case details.

Q: Can You Work in California if You Are Undocumented?

A: In California, it is possible for undocumented individuals to work in certain occupations and industries. However, they will likely encounter certain legal and logistical issues because of their immigration status. It’s important to note that it is not a federal or state crime to work without adequate authorization, that undocumented workers can form and own businesses in CA and the United States, that in California, they can receive licenses in 40 different professions, and that they can file taxes.

Get Access to Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits Today

If you are working in California without authorization and have injured yourself at work or developed a work-related condition or disease, you are likely entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits under California law. Even more importantly, collecting these benefits should not lead to questions about your immigration status.

By working with a dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer from Canlas Law Group, you can fight to get the benefits you are entitled to, helping you recover from your injuries without suffering financial hardship. Get in contact with one of our loyal and skilled attorneys to get started discussing your case today.

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