California Commissioner on Immigrant Eligibility for Workers’ Comp Benefits

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today alerted insurance companies that all workers affected by COVID-19 on the job are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of their immigration status.

Lara’s alert includes workers engaged in occupations such as healthcare, emergency services, food production, sales and delivery

California law requires the payment of workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers regardless of their immigration status: Labor Code ยง 3351, subdivision (a).

“This unprecedented pandemic has sparked questions and concerns among essential workers in the immigrant community who are showing up for work every day, bringing us vital goods and services,” Lara said in a statement. “Hard-working Californians who are exposed to COVID-19 are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they fall ill, regardless of their immigration status.”

Lara issued a notice to remind insurance companies, agents, and employers that California law requires the payment of workers’ comp benefits to injured workers regardless of their immigration status. His action supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 12 executive order stating that workers may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits if they were exposed to or contracted COVID-19 on the job.

In 2015, SB 623, expressly expanded protections for undocumented workers in the event they are injured on the job to include compensation pursuant to the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund or the Subsequent Injury Fund, in addition to standard workers’ comp benefits.

According to the notice: “Workers’ compensation injuries caused by COVID-19 that arise out of and occur in the course of employment are compensable to the same extent as any other compensable injury or disease. This Notice is a reminder that such claims may not be denied on the basis of the injured worker’s immigration status.”