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Workers’ Compensation Benefits Award Reversed for Hurt Massachusetts Worker Employed by Foreign Consulate

A Massachusetts employee may not recover workers’ compensation benefits from the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund (“WCTF”) if the worker is entitled to receive benefit payments in another jurisdiction. In Cynthia L. Merlini v. Consulate General of Canada, a Massachusetts administrative assistant was injured while working in the Boston office of a foreign consulate. At the time, the foreign government did not carry a workers’ compensation policy. Following a hearing before an administrative judge, the WCTF was ordered to pay the worker § 34 temporary and permanent total incapacity benefits. In response to the judge’s decision, the WCTF filed an appeal with the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board.

On appeal, the Board stated Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law only requires the WCTF to pay a hurt employee benefits if the worker is uninsured in violation of the law, the employer is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and the employee is not entitled to recover benefits in another jurisdiction. In addition, the Board found that the judge failed to make findings of fact regarding the Commonwealth’s personal jurisdiction over the employer under § 65(2)(e) and the administrative assistant’s rights under the foreign country’s law. Following recommittal, the judge again ordered the WCTF to pay the employee benefits. In response, the WCTF filed a second appeal.

The Board stated § 65(2)(e) mandates that an employer must be subject to the personal jurisdiction of Massachusetts before a workers’ compensation benefits award may be issued against the WCTF. The Board found that the judge erred when he failed to dismiss the case after determining he did not have jurisdiction to join the foreign government that employed the hurt worker. The Board added that federal law prohibited the administrative judge from determining the Commonwealth had personal jurisdiction over the foreign government. Instead, the Board stated such authority is vested in the federal courts.

Next, the Board said the WCTF is required to pay workers’ compensation benefits to hurt employees of public employers in Massachusetts. Despite this, the Board stated the foreign government was not one of the public employers described in the statutes. In addition, the Board held that the WCTF was not responsible for paying the injured woman’s benefits because the foreign government was entitled to sovereign immunity.

The Board then found that the judge committed error when he awarded the administrative assistant benefits because she received payment under the foreign government’s Employees Compensation Act. The Board stated this entitlement to benefits in another jurisdiction should have ended the judge’s inquiry into whether the hurt employee was permitted to recover workers’ compensation payments from the WCTF.

Finally, the Board reversed the administrative judge’s order awarding the administrative assistant benefits under § 65(2)(e).

If you were hurt in a Massachusetts workplace accident, you should discuss your rights with a dedicated Boston workers’ compensation lawyer. The skilled attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you receive the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your work-related injuries. To discuss your right to recover workers’ compensation benefits with a seasoned lawyer, do not hesitate to contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. online or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Cynthia L. Merlini v. Consulate General of Canada, Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board No. 035748-09 (April 9, 2015)

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