Workers compensation & undocumented workers

New Mexico Workers Compensation Act and undocumented workers.

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently clarified when an undocumented injured worker is entitled to full workers compensation benefits inĀ  Gonzalez v. Performance Painting, Inc., 2013 NMSC 021. A copy of the case can be located at

http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/NMSC/2013/13sc-021.pdf

The opinion is important because it confirms for the first time that undocumented workers who are injured on the job are entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits if the workers meet the requirements outlined in the opinion. Additionally, the Court places responsibility on employers to take steps to avoid hiring undocumented workers.

The concurrences by Justice Chavez and Justice Daniels are especially good reads because they go further than the majority opinion. Additionally, the two Justices affirm the importance of undocumented workers in the history of New Mexico and the country in general as well as the dignity of all workers.

Before this case, workers compensation insurers and employers refused to pay full money benefits to undocumented workers. The employers argued that they could not legally rehire the injured workers because of their undocumented status. The Supreme Court decided that this was not proper especially when many of the employers knowingly hired undocumented workers.

The upshot is that undocumented workers are treated the same as documented workers under the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act.