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The injuries suffered by an undocumented school custodian in Kansas are compensable despite the school district’s objection stemming from falsified documents, a Kansas Supreme Court judge ruled Friday.
In Mera-Hernandez v. U.S.D. 233, Unified School District 233 in Olathe, Kansas, claimed the employment contract issued to Leticia Mera-Hernandez, who was hired in 2009 using a false name and false paperwork under the name Hilda Reina, was null and therefore so was her workers compensation claim stemming from an injury in 2012, according to court documents.
Ms. Mera-Hernandez injured her back while moving furniture at a school. The district paid for her medical treatment, and after a undisclosed period of medical leave, she returned to work but continued suffering from pain, according to documents.
She sought further medical treatment, which the district denied. She later filed a workers comp claim using her real name, subsequently admitting to falsifying documents because she wasn’t legally permitted to work in the United States, according to records.
The district then fired her when they learned of the claim and her false name, claiming its employment contract was fraudulent and null due to her falsehoods, record state.
On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals ruling that found that Ms. Mera-Hernandez’s immigration status does not dispute that she performed work for the school district.
“(Ms.) Mera-Hernandez, clearly qualifying as any person, did enter into the employment of U.S.D. 233,” the ruling states. “She did the work she was directed to do by U.S.D. 233, and U.S.D. 233 paid her for that work, albeit under a different name. Because Mera-Hernandez fits the broad definition of an employee under the (Workers’ Compensation) Act, she is entitled to its coverage. That status as an employee alone trumps any defect U.S.D. 233 asserts regarding her original hiring.”
A school district spokeswoman said in an email Monday that the district is unable to comment on the case.
A limit on workers compensation benefits for undocumented workers is unconstitutional because it prevents them from being eligible for the same comp benefits afforded to legally employed workers in the state, the Tennessee Supreme Court says.