If an illegal worker is injured on your jobsite, can they draw workers comp benefits? Yes they can — at least in Iowa, the state Supreme Court has ruled. The Cedar Rapids Gazette has this report ("Iowa Supreme Court: Undocumented workers eligible for workers' comp benefits," by Chelsea Keenan).
"The case, Staff Management v. Jimenez, wound its way up through the court system after Pascuala Jimenez, an undocumented worker from Mexico, had two hernias while assigned to a job at Proctor & Gamble in Iowa City through temporary employment agency Staff Management," the Gazette reports.
Jimenez was fired from her job after a routine screening showed that her name didn't match the social security number, according to Staff Management. And when a workers compensation commissioner later ordered comp benefits paid out for her injury claim, Staff Management appealed on the grounds that Jimenez didn't qualify because of being undocumented.
But the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that undocumented workers are still employees within the meaning of the state law for workers comp, saying: "an employment contract with an undocumented worker does not inherently have an illegal purpose, and it is not void as illegal merely because the contract is with an undocumented worker." Even though the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it illegal for companies to hire undocumented workers, the court said, it does not relieve the employers who do hire illegals of their responsibilities under the workers comp law.
The Iowa court reasoned that Congress had not intended to overturn worker protections in the states when it prohibited employers from hiring illegal immigrants. Wrote the court: "In the House Report on the IRCA it was specifically stated 'it is not the intention of the Committee that the employer sanctions provisions of the bill be used to undermine or diminish in any way labor protections in existing law.'"
The full Iowa Supreme Court opinion is found here: ("Staff Management v. Jimenez").