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Hispanic worker wins $4 million lawsuit from a workplace accident

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The undocumented immigrant suffered a fall and the company denied he was an employee

On January 9, 2009 Chris, an undocumented immigrant now 44 years old, fell from a defective ladder while painting a wall in a building located in Rego Park, Queens.

The worker, who had started work there three months earlier, fell from a high altitude and ended up on the floor with his back completely bruised, mainly from the poor condition of the floor.

He was immediately taken to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, without accompaniment from his bosses, and after a medical diagnosis of his complicated condition, had to undergo a serious surgery which prevented him from returning to work.

When Chris contacted his employers to seek compensation for damages suffered, the owners of the building for which he worked, (companies Fannwood Estates, Woods Management) not only did not support him to bring his case before the Workers’ Compensation Board, but they turned their backs asserting they did not know him and that he had never worked there.

His bosses even further lied by stating that if he was at the location the day of the incident, it was because he entered private property without permission.

Two weeks later, the worker filed a lawsuit through the law firm of Gorayeb and Associates, which launched a tough legal battle for justice to be served, and finally succeeded: he received compensation for $ 4 million.

The case was decided in a Queens court last February, when a judge ordered the millions as settlement for damages caused to the life of this father, who in the opinion of the lawyer that took his case, should serve as an example for other workers who are victims of abuse and neglect by employers.

A lie discovered

“The first thing workers should do when they have a workplace accident is not lie about what happened to them,” said attorney Christopher Gorayeb, who explained that in the case of Chris the companies involved in the suit tried to elude their responsibility by showing that they had no dealings with him because by paying him cash, his name did not appear in their books.

“They lied and even made co-workers say that he did not work there, but with Chris’s cell phone records we could show that there were more than 50 calls from his employer, including on the day of the accident, which meant we could confirm that yes he worked at the site,” added the defender.

Gorayeb advises workers that if something happens to them in their places of employment not to remain silent and to report the incident: “What the employers usually do is tell the workerr to go to the hospital and say they were injured at home and not at work, and why they do this is to save money, because they know that if a worker does it this way, they cannot ask for compensation.”

The litigant added that even if workers are undocumented they can sue and assert their rights, since the implementation of the law has nothing to do with immigration status.

“No matter whether you are undocumented or not, here all are protected by the law,” he confirmed.

As a result of his injuries, Chris cannot move his torso, he feels constant pain, cannot stand for long periods of time and the orthopedists who treat him determined that needs lifelong care.

We tried to get a comment from the defendant companies regarding the court’s decision, but it was not possible.

To make workplace complaints:

• A worker whose labor rights are violated in the state of New York can file a complaint with the Attorney General or call the Bureau of Labor Affairs at (212 ) 416-8700.

• Workers who have complaints regarding their workplace can call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration US (OSHA ) at (212 ) 620-3200 for information and assistance.

• For more information about Workers ‘ Compensation, contact the Workers’ Compensation Board at ( 877 ) 632-4996.

• Important workers compensation claims forms are available through the Workers’ Compensation Board of New York State and are available on their website at http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/Forms.jsp

You have rights:

• Workers are entitled to a safe workplace free from health hazards.

• Workers are entitled to information that their employer has about the dangers they may suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals or noise.

• They are also entitled to any medical records that the employer has on them.

• Workers may file a complaint with their employer for hazardous working conditions. -The Workers are entitled to lodge complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US (OSHA) and request workplace inspections.

• They also have the right to answer questions from an OSHA inspector and notify them of any danger, including the description of accidents or illnesses and explaining if the employer has temporarily removed risks only for inspections.

• Workers who complain to OSHA may remain anonymous if they wish, and their name will not be given to their employer.

• Workers who become sick or injured because of their work are entitled to compensation. In New York.

• Immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, may be eligible in the same manner.

• Most full-time and part-time workers are eligible, even if they are paid in cash, “off the books” or if they are treated as independent contractors.

• Workers’ Compensation benefits may include: (1) compensation for medical care and treatment of injuries and work-related diseases, (2) cash benefits if the injury or illness prevents the workers from performing their duties and (3) death benefits for the surviving spouse or dependent(s) of a worker who died at work.

• Workers should immediately notify their employer of work-related injuries in person or in writing.


Originally published in El Diario 2016.

For more information about Gorayeb & Associates for a free consultation call: (212) 267-9222

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