L & L Enterprises v. Arellano: Workers’ Compensation and Undocumented Workers

L & L Enterprises v. Arellano, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Wyoming, involved claimant who was injured on the job. After submitting a workers’ compensation claim, it was determined he was an undocumented worker and, trial court ruled, not entitled to benefits. His application for workers’ compensation was denied and he appealed this decision.

travellers-154258-m.jpgOn appeal, the court looked at the issue of whether he qualified as an employee under the state statute for the purposes of workers’ compensation eligibility. It should be noted in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, being an undocumented worker is not a bar to receiving an award an award for workers’ compensation benefits.

The Massachusetts case involved a construction laborer who was severely injured when he fell into a deep hole while on the job. He was an undocumented worker. When his employer denied his application for workers’ compensation benefits, he filed a claim with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA). An administrative law judge determined injured worker was eligible for workers’ compensation, despite his immigration status, and awarded his benefits, including back pay.

Employer appealed, based upon a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case holding undocumented workers were not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. DIA reaffirmed its earlier decision, citing U.S. Supreme Court did not preclude a Massachusetts agency from concluding employer and employee had entered into an enforceable contract, which upon an on-the-job injury, required payment of workers’ compensation benefits.

In L & L Enterprises, that state’s court of appeals did not take the same actions as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and concluded Workers’ Compensation Commission was correct in determining claimant was not an employee for the purposes of the workers’ compensation system.

While much of this result is likely due to different politics in Wyoming than Massachusetts, the facts of this case are somewhat different. Here, claimant is alleged to have provided employer was false citizenship documents when he completed required I-9 documentation. The court considered his actions to be a fraud on his employer.

Even if a state were willing to consider the relationship as being contractual between employer and employee, one based upon a fraud would be a harder case to prove than one in which employer knowingly hired an undocumented worker and agreed to pay him or her.

However, the facts of these cases are not always so clear, as many employers have been willing to accept knowingly false documents for the purpose of an immigration check in an effort to willfully hire an undocumented worker to avoid wage and labor laws.

If you are an undocumented worker who was injured on the job, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to see if you have a case. You should rest assured your consultation will be confidential and your Massachusetts attorney will not report you to immigration authorities based upon attorney-client privilege requirements involving disclosure of crimes where nobody is currently in any danger.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: (617) 777-7777.

More Blog Entries:

Increased Fines for Employers Who Do Not Maintain Workers’ Compensation Coverage, July 22, 2014.

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