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Court Decision Could Impact Workers' Compensation for Undocumented Workers

March 6, 2015

 

Immigrant workers throughout the state could be impacted by the Supreme Court of Delaware’s ruling in Jose Campos vs. Daisy Construction Company, a workers’ compensation case about an undocumented immigrant worker who was injured on the job.

The decision that was released in November ordered the employer, Daisy Construction Company, to continue to provide partial disability payments to Mr. Campos for the compensable work injury, until the worker’s pre-accident earning capacity has been restored.

 

The Industrial Accident Board had previously ruled that Daisy could cease partial disability payments on the grounds that the company had already demonstrated that Campos did not have a reduced earning power following the accident, as he could perform “light duty work” for Daisy based on the doctor’s recommendation.

 

Though Daisy’s behavior typically would have been valid under workers’ compensation law, the Board’s judgment was complicated by the fact that while Daisy was paying Campos’ disability payments, the company’s insurance provider requested an investigation into Campos’ immigration status. When Mr. Campos could not provide a valid social security card, his employment was terminated and he no longer received partial disability payments.

 

In the judgments of both the Industrial Accident Board and the Superior Court, Mr. Campos did not qualify for partial disability because “his inability to work stemmed from his lack of a valid social security number and not from a work related injury.” The Supreme Court reversed that ruling, arguing that Daisy’s statement that it would re-hire Campos under the condition that he could provide a social security card was an insufficient demonstration of job availability, as the job was not actually available to Campos. If the Court were to hold that such an offer was sufficient proof of job availability, the opinion continues, employers could purposefully hire undocumented workers to avoid paying benefits, “discovering” their immigration status after they had suffered injuries.

 

Such scenarios would contradict the Supreme Court of Delaware’s previous interpretations of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which have stated that employers cannot withhold employment benefits from undocumented workers. Allowing the Board’s decision to stand would also be at odds with federal immigration law, as it would encourage employers to hire undocumented workers as a means of reducing the cost of ensuring workplace safety and of employee pay and benefits. Finally, the Court argues, this result would limit workplace safety for workers throughout Delaware, because “employers would not bear the full costs of workplace accidents and therefore would have less incentive to invest in safety measures.”

 

About Brian Legum 

 

Brian is bilingual in English and Spanish, and works with Spanish-speaking clients across the state who have experienced work accidents, car accidents, and other personal injury issues. For more information about how the Campos opinion could impact you or someone you know, or to discuss another legal issue with a Spanish-speaking attorney, please contact Brian Legum at 302-565-6131.

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