Worker's immigration status doesn't prevent award of benefits
Case name: Fernandez v. McDonald's, No. 104,951 (Kan. 01/25/13).
The Kansas Supreme Court held that a worker, who was an unauthorized alien, was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits.
What it means:
In Kansas, prior to 2011 statutory amendments, an otherwise eligible worker is not precluded from receiving an award of work disability based on her status as an unauthorized alien.
Summary: A worker for a fast-food restaurant injured her lower back while lifting a box of meat. After the restaurant submitted an accident report to the Division of Workers' Compensation, it learned that she was an unauthorized alien. The worker sought benefits. The restaurant did not dispute that she suffered a 7 percent impairment but argued that she was not entitled to PPD in excess of her functional impairment. The Kansas Supreme Court held that she was entitled to PPD benefits for the full amount of her work disability.
The court explained that the calculation of PPD benefits depends on the worker's task loss and wage loss. The restaurant asserted that the worker's postinjury wages would always be less than 90 percent of her preinjury wages because her immigration status prevented her from going back to work. The court explained that an exception to basing a PPD award on a worker's postinjury wage reduction due to a worker's immigration status could not be found in the language of the statute.
The court found that the definition of "employee" in the statute did not require that a worker possess documentation to legally work. The legislature's description of covered minors to include those "illegally employed" negated the argument that the legislature intended to make illegal employment a bar to workers' compensation benefits. The statute specifically restricted coverage for certain types of workers, but did not exclude unauthorized aliens.
The court noted that the legislature made changes that require a worker to prove that she has a postinjury wage loss by showing that she has the legal capacity to enter into a valid employment contract. The parties did not argue how these changes might have impacted this case.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 21, 2013
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