In Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, immigration status does not usually prevent injured workers from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Courts in D.C. and Maryland have decided to extend these benefits to undocumented immigrants in the interest of fairness and worker safety. Those courts reason that excluding undocumented workers from workers’ compensation might give employers an incentive to hire more undocumented workers so that they do not have to provide benefits if the worker is injured. Likewise, prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving workers’ compensation benefits would reduce pressure on employers to maintain a safe working environment for all employees.
Virginia also provides workers’ compensation benefits to workers but has not always done so. Prior to 2000, Virginia courts would not extend workers’ compensation to undocumented immigrant workers. In 2000, the Virginia state legislature amended its workers’ compensation law so that undocumented workers were included in the definition of employee and would be eligible for benefits.
There is one exception to this rule in all three jurisdictions: when an undocumented worker is seeking temporary partial disability benefits. A worker can usually receive temporary partial disability benefits when he or she returns to work but at lower wages than prior to the injury. Because the undocumented worker is not authorized to legally return to work, courts have found that this scenario does not apply to them. As such, undocumented immigrant workers may not seek temporary partial disability benefits when they are cleared to return to work. For the same reason, undocumented workers are not entitled to the vocational rehabilitation benefits that are usually available to train workers for new employment.