Tennessee Court Says Undocumented Workers Can Sue for Workers Comp
A Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday, August 5th, that undocumented workers have the right to sue a former employer in the event of retaliation against their workers comp claims.
The decision was based on the case of Ricardo Torres, who worked as a converter builder for auto supplier Precision Industries in Whiteville, TN. After five months at his job, Mr. Torres injured his back in January 2011. Although he was not legally authorized to work in the US at the time, Torres informed Precision of his back injury and received treatment from an employer-selected doctor. However, when he filed for workers comp, his employer denied his claim. Torres hired an attorney to assist him with his workers comp appeal.
In September 2012, Torres contacted Precision for their fax number, but he was “unprofessionally confronted” by a safety manager and a general manager about his workers comp claim and his “lack of work” at the company. He was subsequently fired – a retaliatory act on the part of the employer.
Precision admitted that their managers “became upset” regarding the situation, but argued that the employees’ actions were “based on legitimate and nonretaliatory reasons or factors.” The company added that Mr. Torres was not allowed to file a workers comp claim or a retaliatory lawsuit against the company because he was an undocumented worker.
The Hardeman County court dismissed Torres’s lawsuit on the basis of his undocumented status, but the Tennessee Appeals Court reversed the decision.
“Moreover, we find that depriving unauthorized aliens of an avenue to bring a retaliatory discharge claim could potentially increase the incentive of employers to hire illegal workers that they could terminate if a workers compensation claim was filed. This defeats the goals and policies of the immigration laws and Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act,” the ruling reads. “It also decreases the burden on employers to provide and maintain a safe workplace, if an employer can easily escape paying workers compensation for an injury by firing an unauthorized alien employee without consequence.”
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers’ comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.