Hispanic, Latino and Other Non-English Speaking Construction Workers Are At Risk
For Hispanic or Latino construction workers and others new to the United States in need of a job, day labor offers an enticing opportunity. But if you speak little or no English, you have to rely on other English speaking workers to interpret for you. As with a conversation that is repeated from one person to another, especially when it is translated from a different language, elements become distorted or omitted in the retelling. If this information has to do with a grocery shopping list, missing information is probably not too critical, however safety information on a construction site could be vitally important. For example, warnings as to a particularly dangerous location on the job site, safety equipment that is available, and instructions how to use that equipment can be a matter of life and death. Even American born workers who speak fluent English can misunderstand instructions and get injured on the job.
Due to many factors, Hispanic/Latino workers are accidentally killed on the job more often than their co-workers who are not, mostly because they are the largest minority group working in the construction industry. Non-English speakers are also injured or disabled at the workplace at a higher rate. When these workers are injured, they statistically are injured more severely than English-speaking workers. If you or a loved one has been injured, disabled or killed at a construction site, you have certain rights that need to be protected and exercised, so compensation may be gotten to cover your medical and living expenses from those who were negligent on the job site.
Why don’t construction contractors want to report Hispanic/Latino/Immigrant worker injuries?
- There could be penalties to the construction contractors or companies for errors they have made.
- There are many undocumented workers looking for a job, so contractors can hire another worker if one leaves.
- Some general contractors classify their undocumented workers as independent contractors instead of day laborers, so they can avoid OSHA law coverage. If an injury occurs, the contracting company will try to claim they are not liable.
Undocumented workers have any protection under NY laws but fear arrest or deportation
New York State laws require workers to be paid for all hours worked, plus overtime. However, federal laws may be different and may not apply to all undocumented workers. This is where the law becomes very complicated and each case has to be evaluated on its own. The advantages and disadvantages of filing an injury claim would need to be carefully examined by an experienced construction injury attorney who will take time to understand your situation.
Can Hispanic/Latino/Immigrant worker concerns be overcome?
Non-English speaking construction workers who are citizens of another country may have a number of issues to deal with. Not only do many have difficulties with the English language, their legal status in the United States may keep them from seeking medical help and financial restitution for injuries, disability or death occurring in the workplace.
Undocumented workers may avoid getting legal help because:
- They do not want to report their injuries for fear they will be arrested and deported.
- Their boss may threaten to call Immigration on them if they file an injury complaint.
- They may be afraid of other types of retaliation from their employer, such as losing their job.
- Often these workers do not have a family doctor or health insurance for medical care.
- They have responsibilities to themselves and their family (sometimes living in their home country) to provide for them financially, so they cannot afford to be out of work.
- Their culture may teach them not to confront authority
- Many are raised to have a masculine attitude that expects them to face danger without complaint.
Do not let these possibilities keep you from calling to talk to an experienced construction accident attorney who may be able to help you. Be honest about your situation so they can determine if they can help you.
My immigration status, work issues and injuries seem to be insurmountable problems. Who can I turn to for help?
Only highly experienced legal specialists can be expected to understand the various differences between these laws and how they will apply in your situation. Your coworkers, your friends, or your relatives may offer advice, but they are not familiar with New York State construction safety laws as they pertain to your injury. Everyone’s construction accident is unique. Call a labor law firm to discuss your situation and determine what can be done for you.
Find an attorney that speaks your language. Most labor law attorneys who specialize in working with immigrants have bilingual attorneys on hand to make it easier for you to discuss your situation. You need a law firm that completely understands the laws involving such injuries; they will be able to advise you on any related matters that you are concerned with. These personal issues might be dealing with insurance companies, Immigration issues, obtaining quality health care, and handling an employer that may be threatening or harassing you.
Remember that if a construction accident law firm accepts your case, they will get paid out of the settlement they get for you. You don’t pay unless they are able to win compensation for you.