Punitive damages attributable to undocumented, injured employee

A federal appeals court upheld $ 51,000 in criminal and emotional stress damage to an injured, undocumented worker who alleged he was fired after attempting to get his employer to pay a medical bill related to his injury.

Ricardo Torres injured his back in 2012 while working for the manufacturer Precision Industries Inc. He was with the company from January 2011 until his release in September 2012 Documents in Ricardo Torres v Precision Industries, Inc., filed with the 6th Cincinnati Court of Appeals.

Mr. Torres reported the injury to Precision’s safety manager, who set a doctor’s appointment for later that day. Torres returned to work a week later – but the pain got worse. The security manager did not reschedule a doctor’s appointment, so Mr. Torres planned his own and presented Precision with the medical bill that Precision was reported not to pay.

Mr Torres then hired an attorney to prosecute a claim for workers’ compensation, which led to Mr Torre’s dismissal – which documents include a manager’s “curse word” recorded by a manager.

Mr. Torres then sued, alleging that Precision violated Tennessee law by firing him in retaliation for filing a claim for damages. A district court granted Precision’s motion that Mr. Torres was not entitled to seek repayment or non-economic damages and that the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act precluded his government retaliation.

A federal appeals court reversed and found the district court flawed in ruling the preliminary ruling question without first determining whether Precision would be liable and, if so, what damages were available under Tennessee law. While in custody, the Precision District Court found retaliatory action and ruled that federal law did not anticipate damages. The court granted Torres a refund, $ 1,000 in damages for emotional distress, and $ 50,000 in punitive damages. Precision appealed again.

In the most recent appeal, the federal court upheld the damages and punitive damages but reduced it by $ 4,160 because Mr Torres, who used a made-up Social Security number for employment, was not allowed to work in the US until five months after he was released.

“Federal law makes it illegal to employ undocumented foreigners, but Tennessee’s Workers Compensation Act still protects them. So, if a Tennessee company fires an undocumented employee for filing an employee compensation claim, the employee can claim damages. Due to federal law, the company cannot be obliged to pay lost wages that the foreigner was not allowed to earn. But it is still about wages that the worker could legitimately have received, as well as other damages unrelated to the worker’s immigration status, ”the appeals court wrote.

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