South of the Border
Q: I come from South of the Border. I entered the United States without the permission of federal immigration authorities. I never got papers authorizing me to work, but I never gave anyone fake papers. No proceedings or prosecutions have ever been started against me.
Meanwhile, I found work as a construction worker. One day, I fell from a ramp while pushing a wheelbarrow. Can I sue for negligence, or a violation of the Labor Law?
A: The central issue is whether an undocumented alien injured at a work site as a result of state Labor Law violations is precluded from recovering lost wages due to his or her immigration status.
Your presence in this country without authorization is wrong under federal law. Standing alone, however, this transgression may not be enough to justify denying you the damages to which you are otherwise entitled.
Civil recovery is impossible if your immediate conduct constituted a serious violation of the law and the injuries for which you seek recovery were the direct result of that violation. However, your chances are good so long as no statute made it a crime for you to be employed.
The jury is always permitted to consider immigration status as one factor in its determination of the damages. A jury’s analysis of a future wage claim proffered by an undocumented alien is similar to a claim asserted by any other injured person in that the determination must be based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances presented in the case.
The law does not want to close its eyes to your employer’s failure to (a) demand papers and (b) make the work site safe. A defeat for you means a victory for the employer. Your lawyer will argue: if an undocumented alien must always lose, then his or her employer must always win, so that its wicked ways are encouraged.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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