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California Court Rules Employers Can’t Pry for Immigration Status Information

The Court of Appeal for the 6th District of California recently ruled that employers can’t compel an injured worker to provide unrelated immigration status information during workers’ compensation case discovery processes. Effectively, employers can’t pry to uncover the immigration status of their workers, especially if that would be done in an attempt to deny them owed benefits.

Details of the Immigration Status Workers’ Comp Case

The case involved worker Rigoberto Jose Manuel (Manuel) who hurt his back while working for BrightView Landscape Services (BrightView). BrightView did not take him to a clinic when he reported his injury and instead had him sign a medical treatment waiver. A few days later, with symptoms worsening, Manuel went to a clinic on his own and received instructions from his doctor that he could return to work but with restrictions.

After one day back at work, BrightView fired him. According to the company, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had sent a notification that Manuel did not have authorization to work in the country due to a potentially fraudulent I-9 form. Manuel refused to provide documentation to BrightView that would prove that he was authorized to work in the U.S. and then followed with a wrongful termination lawsuit.

In response, BrightView attempted to use discovery and filed a motion to compel Manuel to prove he was legally authorized to work in the country. It argued that its obligation to cover him with workers’ compensation would retroactively be removed if he had gained employment authorization fraudulently. Originally, a judge agreed with the company, which prompted Manuel to petition the appellate court to vacate the compelling order against him.

The appellate court would find that BrightView did not require more information about Manuel’s immigration status under the current circumstances. Specifically, Manuel did not demand his job back or his lost wages. As such, federal laws that could protect BrightView did not apply to this case. On a broader scale, the court ruled that employers can’t compel workers from disclosing unrelated immigration status information, even when questions of workers’ compensation benefits and employment or termination are present.

If you’re in a complicated workers’ compensation situation in California, you can come to Alvandi Law Group for legal counsel and representation. We have more than 75 years of combined legal experience focused solely on workers’ comp cases and lawsuits. Contact us online for more information about our services and your options.

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