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Benefits, medical treatment awarded to illegal worker

workers comp

An appellate court upheld the award of temporary disability benefits and medical treatment to an illegal alien on Wednesday.

In Orellana v. Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center of Monroe, a two-judge panel of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division unanimously upheld a workers compensation judge’s decision, finding that injured worker presented sufficient, credible evidence to support the judge’s award.

Lilia Orellana is an illegal alien who worked off-the-books as a domestic employee of Rabbi Eliezer and his wife, and asserted the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center of Monroe in Monroe Township, New Jersey, was her employer. The center employed the rabbi and owned the residence where they resided.

On Aug. 23, 2017, Ms. Orellana slipped and fell down the stairs while working in the rabbi’s home and was transported by ambulance, which was ordered by the rabbi’s daughter, to the hospital. She was initially denied care because her injuries were work related and the Center, which she contended was her employer, did not maintain workers compensation insurance at the time of the accident. She sustained a meniscal tear to her left knee and lumbar and cervical herniations.

She filed a petition alleging that the center should cover her injuries, and the center moved to enjoin the nearby Rabbinical College of North America, referred to by the court as RCA, which is the headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

The case came before a Division of Workers Compensation judge, who heard testimony from Ms. Orellana that alleged that the rabbi’s wife said she would not approve medical care and told her to apply for charity care. She also alleged that the rabbi told her that if she filed a claim as an illegal alien, “immigration would take (her) away.”

The judge ordered the center to pay for all necessary and related treatment, and awarded Ms. Orellana $9,520 in temporary disability benefits and a portion of her attorney’s fees. She underwent knee surgery in April 2019 and continued physical therapy.

The center appealed the decision, but the appellate court affirmed the workers comp judge’s decision. The court noted that the judge was “troubled by the threat” allegedly made by the rabbi and the “chilling effect” it could have, and found sufficient, credible evidence to support the judge’s award to Ms. Orellana.

The appellate court also dismissed the center’s argument that the workers compensation judge improperly denied its motion to enjoin RCA holding that the judge found no nexus between Ms. Orellana’s employment and the RCA However, the appellate court noted that since the workers comp judge denied that motion without prejudice, the center was free to refile if it could present evidence of RCA’s involvement.






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