Court Backs Immigrants’ Labor Rights

Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 19

Illegal immigrants hurt on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, a state appeals court panel has ruled, upholding California’s policy of granting workplace rights to undocumented employees.

Torrance coffee roaster Farmer Bros. Co. had sought to deny workers’ comp benefits to an injured employee who was in the country illegally. The company argued that federal immigration laws superseded the state’s system for treating victims of workplace injuries.

But the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, in a ruling published late Monday, said federal immigration statutes didn’t preempt state laws governing workers’ comp insurance, minimum wage guarantees and occupational health and safety protections.

“California law has expressly declared immigration status irrelevant to the issue of liability to pay compensation to an injured worker,” the court ruled, upholding an earlier decision by the state Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board against Farmer Bros.

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