Employee secures benefits despite false Social Security numbers
Hernandez v. Williston Timber Co. Inc., 16 FLWCLB 68 (Fla. JCC, Gainesville 2009).
A Florida judge of compensation claims held that the employer did not establish a fraud defense and that the employee was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
What it means:
An employee is not barred from receiving workers' compensation benefits where evidence establishes that the employee provided false Social Security numbers to secure employment, not to obtain benefits.
Summary: The employee filed a petition for benefits for injuries sustained in a work accident. He testified he provided two false Social Security numbers to obtain employment. The first number did not match his name, and he then "made up" a second Social Security number. Even though the employer knew he provided false Social Security numbers to obtain employment, it argued that he was barred from receiving permanent total disability benefits due to fraud. The JCC rejected the employer's argument and awarded him benefits.
The JCC pointed out that the employer had to prove the employee knowingly or intentionally gave a false Social Security number for the purpose of securing workers' compensation benefits. The JCC pointed out that it is not necessary that a false, fraudulent, or misleading statement be central or vital to the claim; it only must be made for the purpose of obtaining benefits. The JCC found the employee provided false Social Security numbers to obtain employment, not to obtain workers' compensation benefits. He was therefore not barred from receiving PTD benefits.
The JCC noted that the employee's physical restrictions were extensive and he must take breaks every hour while sitting, keep his leg elevated 50 percent of the time, and limit his standing to four hours in an eight-hour workday. The employee's vocational limitations included an inability to speak, read or write English, and a work history of essentially unskilled manual labor. The JCC found he was entitled to PTD benefits.
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July 20, 2009
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