Minnesota has a strong migrant worker community, primarily due to the farming needs and processing plants across the state. Some estimate that more than 20,000 migrant workers are employed in Minnesota each year.
While (obviously) not all migrant workers are “illegal” workers, such a large migration community may raise the question: are undocumented workers entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes, they are.
Generally, and under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), it is illegal in the United States for employers to continue to employ an illegal worker if the employer knows that “the alien is (or has become) an unauthorized alien with respect to such employment.”
But does this prevent undocumented workers from being able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job? Not in Minnesota.
“There are certain states, like Idaho and Wyoming, that do not permit undocumented workers to be eligible for work comp benefits,” says work comp attorney Michael Lammers. “It is important to know that in Minnesota, all employees are protected by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, regardless of whether they are legal workers or workers having illegal status.”
Minnesota law states that immigrants unauthorized to work in the United States are not, as a matter of law, precluded from receiving temporary total disability benefits conditioned on a diligent job search. This was solidified by the Minnesota Supreme Court in an important 2003 case, Correa v. Waymouth Farms, Inc.
“Correa confirmed the clear language of the Act,” says Minnesota lawyer Benjamin Heimerl. “This is because the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act does not distinguish between authorized or unauthorized workers. For better or worse, all people who are Employees under the Act, are covered by the Act; and workers without legal status can indeed be Employees under the Act.”