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Undocumented Workers Covered by State Workers Comp in Nebraska

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 10, 2009 10:15 AM

In Nebraska, it doesn't matter who you are, if you are injured on the job, you are eligible for Nebraska workers compensation. That's the ruling of a Nebraska Court of Appeals, handed down Tuesday. The decision in this case, Visoso v. Cargill Meat Solutions, says that state workers comp includes everyone, even undocumented workers.  

Odilon Visoso was injured in May of 2006 on the job at Cargill, when a 100 lb. slab of meat fell and hit his neck, back and shoulder. Visoso continued to work at the plant on a shortened schedule until he had surgery for his injuries in October of 2008. The company fired him later that month because of his illegal status. The Nebraska Workers Compensation Court was the first to hear the case. They found that worker compensation law covers all employees injured on the job, including undocumented workers who have entered the country illegally. This finding allowed Visoso weekly payments of $343.04 for medical expenses and treatment.

Cargill's attorneys argued that since he was an illegal immigrant, Visoso could not legally work and therefore was not entitled to Nebraska workers compensation benefits. But the Court of Appeals found that Workers Comp was enacted to protect all workers from work related injury, regardless of their status.

Visoso's attorney pointed out the wisdom of the decision. If the court had held that Visoso was not covered, companies would be encouraged to hire more undocumented workers. "If companies weren't responsible for workers' compensation, they could hire more illegals, then when they got hurt say, 'Oh, too bad. We are not going to pay your benefits," attorney Ryan Holsten said in a phone interview with the Journal Star.

The appellate court left open the question of whether Visoso was entitled to use vocational rehabilitation services. The Nebraska Supreme Court has already determined an illegal immigrant who intended to stay in the U.S. was not entitled to rehab services where the goal is to return a person to employment.

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