February 19, 2010

Undocumented Workers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Undocumented Workers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits
by Alissa C. Atkins, Esq.

Two recent decisions at Florida’s appellate level confirmed that undocumented workers were entitled to the equivalent of temporary total disability payments. In the case of Rene Stone Work Corp. v. Gonzalez, the employer/insurer attempted to deny indemnity payments to a claimant who was involved in an injury that resulted in a partial left leg amputation. The employer/insurer contended the claimant’s average weekly wage should be zero because he did not report all of his taxable income in the year 2008, thereby violating Florida law. The First District Court of Appeals ruled on January 25, 2010 that the standard the employer/insurer sought would hold the claimant to a level of accuracy in filing his taxes that Florida did not require. Mr. Gonzalez had filed some tax forms with the help of a CPA. He did not report all of his income from every employer as required on Federal taxes, but did report his income earned with the employer where he was injured. The Court found this to be sufficient.

Based on its decision in this case, the court in JBD Bros. v. Miranda approved the claimant’s request for indemnity benefits despite the fact that he also did not file complete information with the IRS.

Courts in Georgia have refused to penalize employees for failing to include all of their wages in IRS documentation. In 1992, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the average weekly wage of a waiter could be increased by tips, even if the waiter did not properly report the tips as income on his taxes. Pizza Hut Delivery v. Blackwell, 204 Ga. App. 112. Thus, most courts appear to be taking a liberal approach when considering claims filed for weekly benefits.

If you have any comments or questions, please call your David & Rosetti attorney at (404) 446-4488 or by visiting our website at www.davidandrosetti.com

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