When most Tennessee residents are injured on the job, they have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits. But do undocumented workers have equal rights to workers’ compensation benefits after work injuries?
The Nashville workers’ compensation attorneys at Ponce Law explain that a recent court ruling states the answer to that question is yes—undocumented workers have rights to the same scale of work comp benefits as documented workers.
Reports indicate a Davidson County Chancery Court judge issued the ruling earlier this week after hearing the case of Carlos Martinez, a 39-year-old undocumented worker from Guatemala. The man was using a lawnmower when he slipped and fell. He was then struck by the machine’s blades and suffered serious injuries to his arms. Brian Dunigan, a senior attorney at Ponce Law, represented Mr. Martinez on the case.
Due to the victim’s status as an undocumented worker, The Tennessean explains that he was facing a cap on the amount of workers’ compensation benefits he could receive for his injuries. But Chancellor Russell T. Perkins ruled the law unconstitutional because it attempted to preempt federal immigration law.
“This was one of our major driving points in bringing this case, was test that statute,” stated Mr. Dunigan. “These folks come here to work, and it just winds up being a very unfair situation.”
As a result of the ruling, Martinez was awarded about $30,000 in wage loss damages.
A spokesman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s office stated that the office was reviewing the outcome of the case and what their next steps may be.