Nearly every worker in California is covered by workers’ compensation. State law requires every company with one or more employee to have coverage. That does not mean that every worker eligible for coverage manages to get the help he or she deserves when hurt on the job. Perhaps tops on that list would be the day laborer – who very often happens to also be an undocumented immigrant.
While this particular work force does not represent the majority of people on the job, it does make a major contribution to the California economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the day labor force in the U.S. as a whole represents some 5 percent of all workers. In California, day laborers constitute 9 percent of all workers.
Not surprisingly, these individuals are hired day to day – often to do things in and around homes. They might be doing landscaping or serving as part of a moving crew. Very often, they will be hired for home construction or renovation work. In all of these occupations, the risk of injury is high. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation benefits often are not claimed or even offered when accidents happen.
In some cases, fear prevents action. Workers may worry they might be reported to immigration authorities if they make a workers’ compensation claim for an eligible injury. Sometimes, as EPI notes, the fear is based on actual threats.
Policy change advocates are pressing for legislative action in this area. Nothing is happening at the federal level, and state level efforts have recently stalled.
Still, all employees have a right to medical care, and possibly wage replacement, if they are hurt on the job. And anyone with questions has a right to consult with an attorney to learn about their legal options.