Framer's illegal status doesn't defeat his claim for benefits
HDV Construction Systems, Inc. v. Aragon, No. 1D10-6401 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 06/28/11).
The Florida District Court of Appeal held that an undocumented worker was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
What it means: In Florida, an employer cannot use a worker's illegal status as a defense to avoid liability for disability benefits when the employer knew or should have known of the worker's illegal status.
Summary: A framer, who was an undocumented worker, fell from a height of 30 feet while working. He sustained permanent injuries, including complex regional pain syndrome. He was permanently restricted to sedentary work only, which prohibited him from performing any of his preinjury jobs. He sought permanent total disability benefits, which the employer denied on the basis that the framer was physically capable of sedentary work and was unemployable only because of his illegal status. The Florida District Court of Appeal held that the framer was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
The court explained that an employer cannot use a worker's illegal status to avoid liability for disability benefits when it knew or should have known of the worker's status. The court said the employer was barred from raising the framer's illegal status because it hired and continued to employ him. The court said that the purpose of workers' compensation is to place on an industry, rather than taxpayers, the expense incident to hazards created by the industry.
The framer's employment opportunities were restricted by his limited education, inability to read, write, or speak English, lack of a driver's license, and lack of transferable skills. The employer argued that awarding benefits would reward the framer. The court said that workers' compensation is not a reward but a form of compensation for his physical injury. The state legislature made it clear that illegal immigrants are covered under workers' compensation. The employer could have avoided the loss by not knowingly hiring illegal workers.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 18, 2011
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