• The Claimant Does Not Qualify As A Displaced Worker Where His Inability To Obtain Work Is Not Due To The Work Injury But Rather To His Inability To Furnish The Employer With A Valid Social Security Number And Thereby Get Rehired
  • March 28, 2014 | Author: Paul V. Tatlow
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Wilmington Office
  • Jose Campos v. Daisy Construction Company, (Superior Court - C.A. No. N13A-07-002-ALR - Decided 1/16/14)

    This case was before the Superior Court on the claimant’s appeal from the Board’s decision which granted the employer’s petition for review, terminating the claimant’s total disability benefits and also finding the claimant ineligible for partial disability benefits. The Superior Court affirmed the Board’s decision and rejected the claimant’s argument that errors of law had been committed.

    The facts show that the claimant had been employed as a heavy equipment operator. On June 3, 2011, he sustained a work injury to his left shoulder and low back when he was working as part of a traffic crew and was thrown off the back of a truck that suddenly stopped. The claimant underwent shoulder surgery and was placed on total disability status. It was determined during the processing of the claim that the claimant’s Social Security number did not match his name and that, although the employer requested that the claimant provide a correct Social Security number, he failed to do so. On December 16, 2011, the employer terminated the claimant’s employment based on their inability to employ him due to immigration requirements and due to his failure to provide a valid Social Security number. The employer did indicate that they would offer the claimant work within his restrictions if he were able to supply a valid Social Security number.

    In the litigation on the employer’s petition for review, the Board accepted the medical testimony, which showed that the claimant was capable of doing sedentary work on a full-time basis, and the Board thereby terminated the total disability benefits. The Board next addressed the issue of whether the claimant was a displaced worker and entitled to partial disability benefits. The Board concluded that the claimant did not qualify as a displaced worker since his loss of earnings was not causally related to the accepted work injury. Rather, the Board found that the employer was willing to hire the claimant and have him return to work, but, absent the valid Social Security number, they could not legally do so.

    On appeal, the Superior Court found that there was no question that the claimant was physically capable of returning to work at modified duties. The court rejected the claimant’s argument on appeal that the Board had erred as a matter of law by terminating his benefits since he was unable to provide the valid Social Security number, which the claimant argued was contrary to prior case law as well as public policy. The Superior Court found that the undisputed evidence showed that the claimant was capable of gainful employment but that his inability to produce the valid Social Security number barred him from obtaining that employment, resulting in his loss of earning capacity. They further reasoned that this condition was not causally related to the accepted work injury and, therefore, did not qualify the claimant as a displaced worker. The court concluded that the Board did not commit any legal error in its decision to terminate total disability benefits and find the claimant ineligible for partial disability benefits.