Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently reaffirmed a decision that a man who pleaded the Fifth in relation to questions about his status as an immigrant was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. In 2008, the man in question was injured on the job, and a doctor limited the man to lifting no more than 15 pounds as well as telling him to avoid tasks that involved stretching, bending or reaching.
The company that the man worked for stated that they had no work that he could do based on these limitations, and he was placed on temporary workers’ compensation. A few months later, the company moved to remove the man’s benefits, but he stated that he was still unable to work due to his medical condition.
It was discovered in a hearing in front of a workers’ compensation judge that the man had relocated from Ecuador about 10 years ago, but he pleaded the Fifth when asked pursuant questions about his legal status in the United States and whether he had proper work documentation. This particular judge determined that the company was responsible for the man’s medical bills but that they had proven the man was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits due to his legal status. Subsequent court decisions overturned this ruling stating that the man’s refusal to discuss his status did not prove it one way or the other, and the State Supreme Court upheld these decisions.
It is not uncommon for employers to attempt to avoid keeping employees on long-term workers’ compensation or even refusing short-term compensation for spurious reasons. If someone feels that he or she is being wrongly denied these benefits or needs help with the process of applying for benefits, a lawyer could provide assistance.
Source: PennLive, “Pa. Supreme Court weighs in on battle over injured immigrant’s eligibility for workers comp“, Matt Miller, July 22, 2014