Immigrant workers and worker's compensation: The need for reform


  • Ethics Committee/Institutional Review Board (“IRB”): Please include the following “IRB” information: This is not a Human Subjects Research, so no IRB was employed.


Foreign-born workers in the United States suffer high rates of workplace injuries and accidents. Both for workers who are unauthorized to work in the United States and for those who are present legally under guest worker programs, access to workers' compensation benefits presents nearly insurmountable barriers. Some of these are longstanding, such as employer retaliation and aggressive litigation of claims. Some are more recent and related to the increasingly transnational character of the workforce and to barriers put in place by administrators.

This is a legal overview of the cases, statutes, and policies that act as barriers to access for immigrant workers, conducted by reviewing case law and basic compensation statutes in all fifty states. Where these are known, policies that keep workers locked out of workers' compensation are also discussed. It concludes that reform of the system is needed in order to ensure its standing as an insurance program with universal application. As part of that reform, further state by state research and advocacy would discover specific administrative practices in each state that keep immigrant workers from receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. Am. J. Ind. Med. 55:537–544, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.