In November, 2013 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the case of Staff Management v. Jimenez that undocumented workers can receive workers’ compensation benefits. Pascuala Jimenez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had two hernias while on a job assignment in 2007 through the temporary employment agency Staff Management. In January 2008, Staff Management fired Jimenez because she did not have authorization to legally work in the United States. In November 2006 the agency was notified through e-Verify, a federal program that verifies employment authorization, that her name and social security number did not match social security records. Jimenez claimed she was terminated because of her injury.
Undocumented Workers Do Not Preempt Workers Compensation Law
In July 2009 Jimenez applied for workers’ compensation claiming that her ongoing health problems stemmed from her initial hernia surgery. A workers’ compensation commissioner ordered Staff Management to pay for her medical expenses and future medical care. Staff Management appealed the ruling, arguing that Jimenez was ineligible for benefits because she was an undocumented worker.
The case eventually made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court. That court ruled that an undocumented worker is within the state’s meaning of an employee and that ”an employment contract with an undocumented worker does not inherently have an illegal purpose, and it is not void as illegal merely because the contract is with an undocumented worker.” The court further held that the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which makes it unlawful for employers to hire undocumented workers, does not preempt Iowa workers’ compensation law.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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