The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling on Monday, found that an employer held the burden of proof to show that an injured worker was in the country illegally.
David Cruz was a truck driver for Kennett Square Specialties when he hurt his back in 2008 while loading barrels into his truck. Originally from Ecuador, Cruz suffered a herniated disc and was unable to continue working for the company, according to a report by Business Insurance.
He then filed a workers compensation claim asking for medical expense reimbursement and disability income.
Kennett Square Specialties, a mushroom farm near Philadelphia, paid temporary benefits to Cruz for about a month, and then issued a formal denial of benefits.
Attorneys for Kennett Square asked Mr. Cruz during a hearing in 2008 if he was a naturalized U.S. citizen, if he was an undocumented worker or if he possessed a “green card”.
Cruz, on the advice of his attorney, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination and refused to answer the question.
Mr. Cruz also invoked the Fifth Amendment when he was later asked if he improperly used his wife’s Social Security number when receiving medical treatment for his back injury.
The court ruled that Cruz’s refusal to testify about his immigration status did not meet the burden of proof because Kennett Square Specialties had no other evidence that Cruz was working illegally.
In a partial dissent, Justice J. Michael Eakin agreed that Mr. Cruz suffered a work-related injury but said that Pennsylvania lawmakers “did not intend to reward” undocumented workers “by allowing them to participate in a social insurance scheme for Pennsylvania workers.”
Kennett Square must now pay both medical and disability compensation benefits to Cruz.
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