Del. Supreme Court Orders Rehearing Over Illegal Worker's Disabi - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Supreme Court Orders Rehearing Over Illegal Worker's Disability Benefits

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The Delaware Supreme Court (Photo: WBOC Ryan Stanley) The Delaware Supreme Court (Photo: WBOC Ryan Stanley)

DOVER, Del. (AP)- A state panel erred in concluding that a woman who was injured on the job remained entitled to disability benefits because she is in the country illegally and has been unable to find other work, the Delaware Supreme Court said Tuesday.
    
A three-judge panel declared that a person's status as a worker living in the country illegally is not relevant in determining whether she is presumed to be a "displaced worker."
    
The justices reversed a Superior Court ruling that upheld the state Industrial Accident Board's determination last year in favor of Magdalena Guardado. The Superior Court was ordered to remand the case to the IAB for a new hearing.
    
Guardado injured her left wrist in 2010 while working at Roos Foods, a cheese company that ceased operations in 2014 following a listeria outbreak and suspension of its food facility registration.
    
After being paid various periods of total disability, Guardado returned to work until undergoing surgery in 2014. A doctor cleared her to return to work less than two months later, and the company subsequently sought to terminate her disability benefits.
    
The Industrial Accident Board denied the company's petition last year, saying Guardado, while physically capable of working, was a "displaced worker" solely because of her immigration status, and that the company's labor market survey had not shown there were jobs within Guardado's reach.
    
Delaware courts have defined a displaced worker as someone who is so disabled by a compensable injury that he or she will no longer be employed regularly in any well-known branch of the competitive labor market and will require a specially created job to be steadily employed. In deciding whether a worker is displaced, officials consider medical and physical facts as well as other factors, including age, education and experience.
    
"We have concluded that an undocumented worker's immigration status is not relevant to determining whether she is a prima facie displaced worker, but it is a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker," Justice James Vaughn Jr. wrote in the court's opinion.
    
At the same time, the justices said that if a claimant is successful in establishing that she is a displaced worker, the employer's burden of showing that regular jobs within her capabilities are available must take into account her living in the country illegally
    
Vaughn noted that Roos had argued that it's impossible to present evidence that a worker living in the county illegally can obtain employment because that would require presenting affidavits from employers willing to acknowledge that they would commit an illegal act by hiring someone living in the country illegally.
    
"Although we understand this fear, we do not believe it is warranted," Vaughn wrote Tuesday. "The uncomfortable reality that gives rise to societal debate is that there are large numbers of undocumented workers in our midst. Using reliable social sciences methods, there should be no barrier to employers in presenting evidence regarding the prevalence of undocumented workers in certain types of jobs in certain regions, and combining that with more specific information about actual jobs in those categories."

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