New Mexico Court Says Denying Workers’ Compensation Benefits to Farm and Ranch Laborers is Unconstitutional
In Griego v. New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Commission the state trial court has denied a motion to dismiss and has ruled that a severely injured New Mexico farmworker and two groups that represent farm and ranch laborers may pursue their claim that the exclusion of farm and ranch laborers from the state's workers’ compensation program violates the state constitution's equal protection clause. If this case succeeds on the merits, thousands of agricultural workers, many of whom are recent immigrants will, for the first time, be able to access the workers’ compensation program if injured while at work. Organizational plaintiffs are Sin Fronteras Organizing Project and HELP-New Mexico, Inc. Co-counsel are the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Sargent Shriver National Poverty Law Center. See press release on the filing of the case.
Update – Court Reaches Final Decision in December 2011
On December 9, 2011, Second Judicial District Judge Valerie Huling issued a 19 page decision ruling that the exclusion of farm and ranch workers from workers’ compensation was unconstitutional. These were, the judge said, “the poorest of the working poor” – poorly educated and poorly paid, historically abused by employers, overwhelmingly noncitizens who were legally barred from organizing. The judge also found that the eliminating the exclusion would have only a very minor impact on the industry’s annual profit. See the full decision here.