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Punitive damages due to undocumented, injured workers



A federal appeals board upheld $ 51,000 in punishment and emotional stress injury to an injured, undocumented worker who claimed he was fired after trying to get his employer to cover a medical bill related to his injury.

Ricardo Torres injured his back. 2012 while working for the manufacturer Precision Industries Inc. He had been employed by the company from January 2011 until his dismissal in September 2012, a period when he was not legally authorized to work in the United States, according to document Ricardo Torres v Precision Industries, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Mr. Torres reported the injury to Precision's security chief, who scheduled a doctor's appointment later that day. One week later, Torres returned to work ̵

1; but the pain got worse. The head of security did not plan a new doctor's appointment, so Mr. Torres planned his own and handed over the Precision doctor's bill, which Precision would not pay, according to documents.

Mr. Torres then hired a lawyer to pursue a professional compensation claim, a move that led to Torre's dismissal – which included a "swear-war diatrib" by a manager that Torres recorded according to documents.

Mr. Torres then sued, claiming that Precision violated Tennessee law by firing him in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. A district court upheld Precision's claim that Torres was not entitled to reimbursement or non-pecuniary damages, that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 precludes his state retaliation claim.

A federal appeals court reversed and held the district court wrong by ruling on the redemption issue without first determining whether Precision was liable and, if so, what damages were available under Tennessee law. Upon arrest, the district court found Precision liable for the discharge and held that federal law did not constitute damages. The court awarded Torres a refund, $ 1,000 compensation for emotional distress and $ 50,000 in punitive damages. Precision appealed again.

In the most recent appeal, the federal court upheld the compensation and punitive damages, but was still reduced by $ 4,160 reimbursement on the argument that Torres, who used a fabricated social security number to obtain employment, was not authorized to work in the United States until five months after the termination.

"Federal law makes it illegal to employ undocumented foreigners, but the Tennessee Workers' Compensation Act still protects them. So if a Tennessee company fires an undocumented employee to file a workers' compensation claim, the employee can sue for damages. Due to federal law, the company cannot be required to pay lost wages that the alien was not allowed to earn. But it is still on the hook for salaries that the employee could legally have received, as well as for other injuries that are not related to the employee's immigration status, "the Board of Appeal wrote.

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