Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation statutes severely limit the recovery of permanent partial disability benefits for unauthorized immigrant workers. In particular, T.C.A. §§ 50-6-241(e) and 50-6-242(c) limit the benefits an injured worker can recover to 1.5 times the medical impairment rating benefits. For citizens and resident aliens, recovery can be as much as 6 times the medical impairment rating or, in some cases, even higher. In practice, an unauthorized immigrant worker may be offered 20% or even as little as 8% of the benefits another worker would be offered.
An experienced Tennessee attorney may able to help workers affected by these unconscionable provisions recover greater benefits.
In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Arizona v. United States, a landmark ruling on federal immigration law. While much of the opinion, which received widespread media attention, focused on the ability of states to arrest immigrants suspected of being here illegally, the Court also held that a state could not impose sanctions on unauthorized immigrants simply for seeking work or working. The principals of preemption announced by the Supreme Court in the Arizona opinion relate directly to Tennessee’s Workers Compensation laws. It seems clear that Tennessee’s provisions discussed above — which were specifically adopted to punish and deter “illegal” workers — would also be preempted under the same analysis.
Shortly after the Arizona decision was announced, the Law Office of David S. Hagy, PLC, filed suit in federal court on behalf of an unauthorized immigrant worker who was severely injured in a workplace accident. On behalf the employee, we argued that Tennessee’s law was preempted by federal law in accordance with the Supreme Court’s Arizona opinion. The case was recently settled confidentially.