Workplace Justice Project, Undocumented Workers’ Right to Compensation for Workplace Injuries, January 3, 2017


After a 10-year legal battle, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued a decision affirming the right of millions of undocumented workers to protection from exploitation and discrimination in the workplace. The challenge, led by the National Employment Law Project, the ACLU, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic, was brought on behalf of two workers who were reported to immigration authorities and prosecuted, rather than receiving the treatment to which they were entitled for injuries suffered on the job.

In its decision, the IACHR determined that the United States is responsible for violating workers’ human rights by denying them the right to equality before the law and access to justice and labor protections. The IAHCR made several recommendations to address those violations including:

  • providing adequate monetary compensation to remedy the violations;
  • ensuring all federal and state laws and policies, on their face and in practice, prohibit any and all distinctions in employment and labor rights based on immigration status and work authorization, once a person commences work as an employee;
  • prohibiting employer inquiries into the immigration status of a worker asserting his or her employment and labor rights in litigation or in administrative complaints;
  • ensuring that all workers are granted the same rights and remedies for violations of their rights in the workplace;
  • establishing a procedure for undocumented workers involved in workers’ compensation proceedings to request the suspension of deportations until receipt of appropriate medical treatment and resolution of claims; and
  • improving and enhancing the detection of employers who violate labor rights and exploit workers because of immigration status and impose adequate sanctions against those employers.