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Rights of Undocumented Illegal Alien Employees in N.J. Workers' Compensation

There are many hardworking undocumented workers in N.J. More often than not, these employees are paid off the books. Many are afraid that if they complain to their employer about injuries on job or working conditions, they will be reported to immigration and possibly deported. When an undocumented illegal alien is injured on the job, the question is this: Are these workers entitled to benefits under New Jersey's workers' compensation system? The answer is yes. There are not many cases in New Jersey that deal specifically with this these types of cases. It could be for any number of reasons. It is most likely the fear of deporation or retaliation that keeps many undocumented workers silent.

An important case that deals directly with this issue was decided in 1996. In Fernandez-Lopez vs. Jose Cervino, Inc., 288 N.J. Super. 14 (App. Div. 1996), the Court made it very clear that illegal alien status does not negate the protections of the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act. The employer in that case had argued that an undocumented illegal allien had no right to benefits or access to New Jersey Courts and that his employment contract was unenforceable. The Court disagreed with the employer and held "Unless and until the Leglislature expressly excludes undocumented aliens from workers' compensation benefits, the compassionate public policy which animates this social legislation favors inclusion of all injured workers not specifically excluded by the Legislature."

If you are are an undocumented worker and were injured on the job, there is no risk at all in speaking with a lawyer. As your attorneys, we have an ethical obligation to keep consultations private and confidential. Feel free to call or email us any time with questions or concerns and we will be happy to help you.

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