In New York, Workers’ Compensation is governed by the Workers’ Compensation Board, which is a state agency that makes sure the system functions properly. The Board oversees claims and disputes, ensures employers are properly insured, and sees to it that injured workers are compensated.
Being an undocumented worker is difficult and you may not know what your rights are as someone who is not a citizen. While your status makes you ineligible to legally work in the United States, you do have some of the same rights as an American citizen. Being informed can help you understand and pursue your rights as a worker in New York State.
Anyone who’s ever held a job knows that it’s all too easy to get injured while at work. Whether it’s a bad burn, a slip or fall, or even stress, workers’ compensation (more commonly referred to as “workman’s comp”) is insurance that will cover the cost of lost wages and medical expenses should an accident occur. If you are ever injured at work and decide to make a worker’s comp claim, it’s essential that you understand that you then automatically give up your rights to sue the employer.
If you work in the state of New York as a domestic employee, you are entitled to certain protections under state law. Under New York law if you work for the same employer for a minimum of 40 hours per week, excluding any farm work, then your employer is required to meet worker compensation requirements. This includes having the right level of insurance in the event that you are injured on the job, and need to file a workers’ compensation claim. Even though you are a domestic employee, the state of New York sees you only as a worker, and this means you are entitled to the same protections as somebody who would, for example, be working on a construction site. Clearly somebody working in the domestic environment can suffer an on-the-job injury such as a slip and fall, and have needs under workers protection laws.
With the warm summer weather on the way, we are entering the busy construction season. The streets of New York will be lined with orange barrels and detour signs leading to longer commutes. Along with the increase in the construction-related activity we also begin to notice the disturbing and all too familiar headlines:
“Worker severely injured at Theatre District construction site”
“One dead and one in stable condition when lift overturns at Midtown construction project”
“Roof collapses at Queensbridge unit expansion project—two workers severely injured”
According to the US Department of Labor, the most common construction accidents are:
• A result of falling, tripping or slipping
• A consequence of worker contact with equipment
• Involve a worker being struck by an object
The Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation has just been given a boost from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. According to WorkersCompensation.com report, the governor approved $700,000 for education, outreach, and investigations. The Governor also formed an Anti-Retaliation Unity and a Mediation Unit. These units will exist within the State Department of Labor to help prevent retaliation against workers who assert their rights.
In New York, employees who are injured on the job or who contract a work-related illness are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp pays for a wide range of medical bills, and in cases of serious injury, may also replace portions of lost wages or pay for rehabilitation and job retraining.
Only “employees” are covered under New York workers’ compensation law. Independent contractors are not covered. While there are no set rules for determining who is and is not an employee, the New York Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) provides a list of criteria for determining who is likely an employee – a question that matters a great deal if you have been injured on the job.