IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF MARIO ARELLANO, AN EMPLOYEE OF L & L ENTERPRISES:
MARIO ARELLANO, Appellee (Petitioner) L & L ENTERPRISES, Appellant (Respondent),
Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County. The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge.
Representing Appellant: F. Scott Peasley of Peasley Law Office, Douglas, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter J. Timbers of Schwartz, Bon, Walker & Studer, LLC, Casper, Wyoming.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.
[¶1] Appellant L& L Enterprises challenges a district court order requiring the Wyoming Division of Workers' Compensation to award benefits to its former employee, Appellee Mario Arellano. After he was injured on the job and made a worker's compensation claim, Mr. Arellano turned out to be an alien who was not authorized to be or work in the United States. L& L urges us to find that the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) was correct in denying him benefits, asserting that he is not an " employee" as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-102(a)(vii) (LexisNexis Supp. 2014) and that he is not entitled to benefits because he fraudulently obtained his employment by providing false documentation.
[¶2] We find that the district court was correct in concluding the OAH's action was not in accordance with the law and in awarding benefits. We therefore affirm.
[¶3] 1. Was the OAH's order denying worker's compensation benefits for Arellano, because he did not meet the definition of " employee" under the Wyoming Workers' Compensation Act, in accordance with the law?
2. Do Arellano's misrepresentations in providing false documentation and information to secure employment vitiate any right to receive benefits under the Act?
[¶4] Arellano sought employment with L& L, which required him to complete a Form I-9 and provide two forms of identification.
Arellano filled out the employee portion of the I-9, attesting under penalty of perjury that he was a citizen or national of the United States. He also provided a New Mexico driver's license and a social security card that L& L examined to confirm his identity and citizenship.
[¶5] After being employed for roughly four months, Arellano hurt his lower back on the job, and soon thereafter completed a Wyoming Report of Injury. The Wyoming Division of Workers' Compensation issued a Final Determination Regarding Compensability in which it denied Arellano's claim for coverage, determining that it could not approve payment of the claimed benefits because: (1) it had not received requested medical documentation to support the claim that a work-related injury had occurred; (2) the incident did not meet the definition of an injury in the workers' compensation statutes; and (3) it had not received requested information to prove residency and authorization to work in the United States.
[¶6] Arellano challenged the Division's decision by appealing to the Office of Administrative Hearings. A contested case hearing was held, and Arellano admitted that his social security card was a fake he bought on the street from someone. He also admitted that the information on the Form I-9 was therefore false, that he was a citizen of Mexico, and ...