Undocumented immigrant workers are often forced into illegal working conditions in violation of state and federal law. Many of these workers are afraid to come forward in fear of losing their jobs or getting deported. In a recent case reversal, the Court of Appeals is reiterating to lower courts that undocumented workers do have rights and they are protected against workplace violations under Minnesota law.
Undocumented immigrant workers are often forced into illegal working conditions in violation of state and federal law. In addition to suffering discrimination, overtime violations, wrongful termination, failed safety provisions and other unlawful treatment, many of these workers are afraid to come forward in fear of losing their jobs or getting deported. In a recent case reversal, the Court of Appeals is reiterating to lower courts that undocumented workers do have rights and they are protected against workplace violations under Minnesota law.
Injured undocumented worker files workers’ compensation claim
An immigrant who was not authorized to work in the United States began working for a Minnesota company in February 2005. In September 2013, he suffered serious injuries to his leg, neck, and back while using a sandblaster. During a deposition, the employer’s legal representation inquired about his status.
Complaint filed after immigrant worker suffers retaliatory discharge
After the deposition and signing a document that confirmed his illegal status, the employee was put on indefinite and unpaid leave. He filed a complaint alleging retaliatory discharge in violation of Minnesota law, also alleging discrimination for national origin in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. According to the complaint, the company was well aware of his immigration status several years before the deposition related to his workers’ compensation claim.
Undocumented workers have a right to workers’ compensation benefits
The district court dismissed the undocumented worker’s claim that he suffered retaliated and was unfairly terminated in violation of the Minnesota Worker’s Compensation Act. The claim dismissal was reversed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, relying on the statutes that make it unlawful for an employer to interfere with or discharge an employee for seeking worker’s compensation. According to case law, the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the Immigration Reform Control Act does not prohibit undocumented workers from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Employers cannot evade responsibility for undocumented workers
Minnesota legislators and the courts have an incentive to hold employers accountable when they hire undocumented workers. Allowing an employer to evade responsibility because an employee was undocumented would give them additional incentive to hire illegal workers. If you are an undocumented worker, remember that you have rights and protections under Minnesota law.
Wanta Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is currently investigating legal claims related to wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination and other employment law violations against undocumented workers. We are dedicated to helping all employees in Minnesota protect their rights and pursue all available remedies in the event of employer misconduct. Please call 612-252-3570 to discuss your case with our St. Paul and Minneapolis employment law attorneys.