To say that a language is just a barrier is such an understatement. If you are hurt at work in Pennsylvania and you only speak Spanish, how do you fill out a workers’ comp claim? Whom do you speak to in Human Resources (HR)? How do you understand your doctor? Does your union rep. speak Spanish? I have been working in the Philadelphia workers comp field for almost ten years now as the Spanish liaison at Pearson Koutcher Law. My passion is to help injured workers in the Spanish speaking community better understand their rights under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
The majority of immigrants, whether legal or not, do not have a clue that they can even file a workers’ compensation claim to receive wage loss benefits let alone get treatment for work injuries at no cost to them. Sadly, too often nobody — not the manager of human resources, medical personnel, or union reps. – informs them of their workers’ compensation rights.
The lack of communication between companies’ human resources departments and the Spanish speaking community is something I wish I could change. Explaining the rules and regulations with regard to Pennsylvania workers’ comp outlined by the HR departments of my clients’ companies is one of my most daunting and frustrating challenges. This is because the information is there for the injured workers, but frequently there is not a method in place for the information to be translated to the Spanish workers who have been injured.
Secondary to a basic understanding of injured workers’ rights, explaining what is going on during medical appointments or treatment might be the most difficult task of all. There are not enough representatives in the workers’ comp field, either on the legal side or the medical side, to assist clients in their workers’ compensation cases by scheduling their medical appointments, clarifying what is happening during the appointment, and explaining why it is all important to their workers’ compensation case.
Moreover, the medical treatment that many injured workers in the Spanish speaking community receive is poor. A lot of workers in the Spanish speaking community are underpaid and overworked and as a result, many have no choice but to continue to work after they have been injured so they can provide for their families. Many also have two, sometimes three other jobs to make ends meet. When they get hurt at work, their injuries prevent them from performing all of their jobs. And then what is a person to do under those dire circumstances? If you are an illegal immigrant, going on welfare is not even possible. These injured workers are trapped and, without knowing English, never understand they are entitled to medical treatment and wage loss benefits so they can recover and still take care of their families.
Due to Pearson Koutcher’s affiliation with many unions, we know firsthand that our expectation from the union reps is that they are always trying to assist the workers in one form or another. However, what if you only speak Spanish? The language barrier is again apparent because there are not many representatives that speak the Spanish language. So sometimes papers, filled with helpful information, just go round and round and end up never being explained or completed. I wish that I could handle it all, but I cannot. When it comes to the union, we can be that liaison and make ourselves available to walk everyone through the workers’ compensation process to get everyone their maximum wage and medical benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, but it is stressful.
The Workers’ Compensation system in Pennsylvania is complicated and difficult to understand. Do not allow a language barrier to come between you and the help you deserve!
If you have been hurt at work, it is important that you are represented by a competent, experienced workers’ comp. lawyer. At Pearson Koutcher Law, workers’ comp. is all we do. Every one of our lawyers has at least 20 years of experience representing injured workers and will make sure that your rights are fully protected so your benefits are not cut off when they should not be. Please call us for a free, comprehensive evaluation.