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Federal workplace protections apply to all workers, even undocumented ones

Workplace safety is an important issue for all workers, particularly those who are prone to being taken advantage of while on the job. Latino workers are particularly at risk, especially undocumented workers, as advocates for workers know all too well.

According to OSHA, a total of 4,679 workplace deaths in 2014 averaged out to 90 deaths per week and 13 per day. Of these, 789 were Latino. Farms which employ such workers often fail to take steps to protect employees and workers are afraid to report the employer for fear of deportation. Many undocumented workers don’t realize, though, that they are protected by the law

Workers’ Center of Central New York has been calling on workers to report employers who fail to live up to their workplace safety obligations. Too often, undocumented workers assume that they have no rights and therefore must endure whatever mistreatment or hardship their employer throws their way. Undocumented workers should know, however, that employers are still obligated to abide by workplace regulations, regardless of whether they employ undocumented workers or not.  

Looking at one important workplace safety law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, all private employers and their employers in all 50 states are covered, regardless of their immigration status. The law imposes upon employers a general duty to keep their workplace free of known hazards that could threaten the life or health of workers. Alongside that general duty, there are a variety of regulations pertaining to specific types of hazards, jobs, and work sites. In a future post, we’ll take a closer look at the law and how it relates to workers’ compensation benefits.

Source:, “Syracuse group calls attention to workplace deaths and injuries,” Rick Moriarty, April 28, 2016. 

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