undocumented alien

It's been quite a while since I wrote my last blog entry and I'm going to try to be more conscientious.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently had an interesting holding involving an injured worker who was allegedly an undocumented alien. The employer's attorney asked him during cross-examination if he possessed a green card. In response to this question, the claimant invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The judge in the case below ruled that the worker was injured on the job, but denied him any wage replacement benefits, finding that he was an undocumented alien and therefore not entitled to work in the United States.

On appeal, the employer argued that it was the workers' burden to demonstrate that he was eligible for employment under federal employment law. The Supreme Court rejected this argument and reversed the judge below. The court ruled that it was the defendant's burden to demonstrate that it was entitled to suspend payment of wage replacement benefits to the claimant, and it could not do so absent proof that the claimant was an undocumented alien. The court also ruled that taking the Fifth Amendment does not constitute substantial evidence of the employee's undocumented status. The court found that the failure of an employee to testify on this issue alone was not enough, and that the employer had the burden of presenting probative evidence regarding the worker's citizen status.

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