Pennsylvania: Claimant’s Invocation of Self-Incrimination Rights Cannot, Standing Alone, Furnish Sufficient Evidence to Suspend Comp Benefits

On Monday, in Cruz v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Kennett Square Specialties), 2014 Pa. LEXIS 1772 (July 21, 2014), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that as to the proper allocation of the burden of proof between an employer and a workers’ compensation claimant regarding the claimant’s legal eligibility under federal immigration law to obtain suitable employment when the employer seeks to suspend workers’ compensation disability benefits on that basis, the burden rests with the employer to show that any loss of earning power was due to the claimant’s lack of United States citizenship or other legal work authorization. Moreover, the claimant’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned before the Workers’ Compensation Judge did not constitute substantial evidence of the claimant’s alleged lack of legal authorization to be employed in the United States. The invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights could not, standing alone, furnish sufficient evidence for the WCJ to suspend claimant’s benefits.

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