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Many undocumented workers in Minnesota who suffer injuries at work are nervous about filing a work comp claim. They do not know whether filing a work comp claim will alert authorities to their illegal presence in the United States.

Minnesota law has addressed this issue. Status as an undocumented worker does not prohibit an injured employee from receiving workers compensation benefits.


In 2000, an employee by the name of Fernando Correa suffered a lower back injury while at work.  Correa underwent several surgeries and received wage loss benefits.  In 2001, Correa’s employer and insurer terminated the Correa’s position based on his lack of legal authority to work in the United States.  They also petitioned to discontinue his wage loss benefits.

Following a work comp hearing, the workers compensation judge rejected the employer’s argument that the employee’s wage loss was due to his unauthorized status and the employee was awarded wage loss benefits.

The matter was appealed to both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The Minnesota Supreme Court held that as long as the employee was able to document a diligent job search, then he was entitled to workers compensation benefits even though he was an undocumented worker.

The case was then sent back to the Minnesota Work Comp Court of Appeals to decide the case in light of the decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court. The issue became whether undocumented workers can conduct diligent job searches under Minnesota workers compensation law to trigger receiving work comp benefits. 

Correa’s employer argued that there is a fundamental and insurmountable problem in providing appropriate rehabilitation and job search assistance to undocumented workers, and further argued that it is a federal crime under the Immigration Reform Control Act for an individual to recruit or refer an undocumented worker for employment.

The Minnesota Work Comp Court of Appeals held that the employee’s undocumented status does not by itself prohibit him from receiving workers compensation benefits. 

The Court of Appeals held that a workers compensation judge, in determining the eligibility of workers compensation benefits for undocumented workers, must conduct an analysis of the employee’s physical condition, level of permanent partial disability, age, training, experience, and the type of work available in the community.

In summary, an injured employee’s status as an undocumented worker does not, by itself, prohibit receiving workers compensation benefits. However, status as an undocumented worker is a factor a judge can consider as it pertains to wage loss benefits because it could impact the ability to conduct a diligent job search.


If you are an undocumented worker and have suffered a work injury and have reservations about filing a claim, please contact our office for a free consultation

Author Photo Joshua R. Stokka

Josh has been representing injured workers for over 10 years. Josh was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology. Mr. Stokka alson received his law degree from the Hamline University School of Law. During law school, Josh clerked at a Minnesota law firm specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation. Prior to practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, Josh clerked for a judge in the 7th Judicial District in Minnesota. This valuable experience gave him insight into how judges think, do their jobs behind the scene, and how to frame a case in order to obtain a favorable result.  Now, he focuses 100% of his practice on defending injured workers in Minnesota.

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