S.C. Court: Illegal Immigrant Workers Hurt Should Get Compensation

December 28, 2007

Illegal immigrants who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled.

The court issued the opinion after an employer claimed a Mexican citizen who injured his right eye on a demolition job in Charleston should not get workers’ compensation benefits because federal law prohibits hiring illegal immigrants.

In an opinion issued late last week, the court disagreed.

“Disallowing benefits would mean unscrupulous employers could hire undocumented workers without the burden of insuring them, a consequence that would encourage rather than discourage the hiring of illegal workers,” Justice James Moore wrote in the unanimous opinion.

The state’s high court cited a similar ruling in North Carolina and said other states have also ruled that way.

An attorney for the employer, Environmental Management Services, said Mario Curiel of Mexico submitted fraudulent documents to get hired and was employed under false pretenses.

“If the employer is doing everything you’re supposed to be doing and is the victim of an individual perpetrating fraud on you, in that situation the employer ought to be able to void the employment contract,” company attorney Hubert Wood III told The Sun News of Myrtle Beach for a story published Thursday.

Wood also argued that Curiel had a previous injury to his left eye that he never told the company about.

The court said Curiel could receive benefits if the combined injuries resulted in a greater disability. The court ordered the Workers’ Compensation Commission to determine the combined effect.


Information from: The Sun News, http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com

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