AUTHOR:  Melina Villalobos

Employers are well aware that just one work-related accident or illness can result in medical expenses, rehabilitation services, and liability compensation. This can be the case whether the accident or illness involves a legal or illegal worker. A recent Nebraska Supreme Court decision is a reminder that undocumented aliens also may bring workers’ compensation claims.  In Moyera v. Quality Pork International, 284 Neb. 963 (Jan. 4, 2013), the Nebraska Supreme Court held that the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act applies to undocumented aliens and these employees could be entitled to permanent total disability benefits (PTD benefits) for work-related injuries.  Indeed, courts in the following states have found that undocumented employees are covered by their state workers’ compensation systems:  (1) Florida, (2) Kansas, (3) Kentucky, (4) Maryland, (5) New Jersey, (6) North Carolina, (7) Ohio, (8) Oklahoma, and (9) Pennsylvania.  Thus, this is another reason for carefully managing the hiring process — to ensure that your workforce does not include aliens who are not authorized to work.

From a compliance standpoint, employers can avoid potential liability for PTD benefits for work-related injuries with an I-9 compliance audit accompanied by ongoing training initiatives aimed at preventing the hiring of employees who do not possess lawful work authorization.  Such initiatives should not be undertaken without the assistance of competent legal counsel to help navigate the murky waters of immigration compliance.   Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist employers with these immigration compliance issues and other workplace requirements.