For many people, moving to the United States and getting a high-paying job is the best means of improving their future and the lives of their loved ones. Because of restrictions on immigration, it is harder than ever for many people to pursue that dream. Instead of giving up on their hopes, however, many people choose to bend or even overtly break the law in the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Working without legal documentation seems like a great idea until something happens. It only takes a second for a good-paying job to leave you temporarily or permanently disabled. Machinery accidents or malfunctions, falls, falling equipment or supplies, and a host of other potential disasters can break bones, tear off limbs or even kill a worker with little warning. You may think that you don't have the right to recourse because of your undocumented status, but that isn't true. You may have options, including a lawsuit or even workers' compensation.
Employers who break labor laws may break others, too
If your employer is willing to hire undocumented workers or knowingly works with those using false identities to keep costs low, chances are good that your employer may break other laws, too. Harassment and employee mistreatment is common in places where there are large numbers of undocumented workers.
There's also the potential for serious safety violations. Employers may not worry about carrying workers' compensation insurance, like they should. In other situations, they may fail to conform to rules and laws put in place to protect workers. That willingness to bend the rules may be a contributing factor to the fact that young Hispanic workers have the highest risk of death in the dangerous construction industry.
Fighting back protects your family and future workers
Companies willing to break the law to make more money will probably not do so just because someone ended up severely hurt. They could even try to intimidate workers who sustained injuries due to their negligence or failure to provide adequate training and safety equipment. You should not let anyone, from your boss to your employer's attorney, convince you that you don't have rights just because you are undocumented.
If your employer is not held accountable for your injury, the practices won't change. Cutting corners will remain the best way to increase profits. By fighting back and holding your employer accountable for your injuries, you take steps to protect your family from the financial fallout that accompanies a serious injury preventing you from working. You are also protecting future workers at the same company. Once negligence and rule-breaking starts to cost money, your employer may adjust his or her approach to worker safety.