Are Undocumented Workers Protected When Injured in Offshore Accidents?
American is a nation of immigrants. Skyscrapers, shipping channels, and just about every aspect of our mighty infrastructure was built on the backs of hard-working newcomers, who brought with them skills, energy, a love for their new country, and a desire to build a new life in the U.S. Sadly, political debates often appeal to our baser instincts and drive a wedge between us, rather than seeking to unite our core similarities.
Nothing unites people more than hard work. The shared commonality of doing a tough job connects people. Offshore maritime workers are among the hardest working laborers in America. Long hours, backbreaking physical demands, and high-risk environments are shared by all offshore workers, not just those with documented status. If you suffer a workplace injury offshore, you may be entitled to protection under federal law, even if you are technically an undocumented worker.
Immigrants in Maritime Occupations
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suggests that there are about 12 million “undocumented” immigrants living the U.S. at the moment, with about 7 million of them originating from Mexico. Undocumented immigrants pay income, sales, and property taxes, support their communities, and strengthen economies. Yet, when they are injured at work, it can be terrifying to consider reporting the injury, for fear of deportation or incarceration. The good news is, even those with undocumented status have protections under the law.
As of 2010, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that being an undocumented worker would not bar a person’s right to recover for injuries under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The case, Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. v. Rodriguez, stands for the proposition that an injury is potentially compensable regardless of immigration status. In the case, the court explained that under this federal law, compensation rights are extended to residents, aliens, and those who are about to become nonresidents. No distinction is made in the law for legal status or illegal status. Likewise, there is no express exclusion for undocumented workers. There are a lot of complex exceptions and nuances to the court’s decision, so injured longshoremen should always contact a local maritime lawyer to discuss their rights.
Undocumented Offshore Workers
The Merchant Marine Act (“Jones Act”) provides for compensation for injured workers who suffer their injuries while working on the high seas.
Maritime crew members, including those who work in the following types of industries, may qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, even if they are technically undocumented workers:
- Offshore Barge workers
- Private Yacht Crews
- Charter Boats
- Casino Cruises
- Cruise Ships
- Oil and Gas Workers
- Many more
Experienced Maritime Legal Help
If you’ve suffered an injury on the high seas or in Florida’s boundary waters, you may have special rights that are governed by federal law, in addition to traditional options under state law. Contact a lawyer who understands both and can advise you on your best path to compensation. A serious workplace injury can devastate a family and spell financial disaster. Don’t struggle through your recovery alone, and don’t wait too long and lose your rights. Contact Michael F. Guilford, P.A. in Florida to schedule a free case evaluation today.