Juan Carlos Astudillo worked as a maintenance helper for Reinforced Earth. There, he cut and welded iron and repaired motors, and was required to climb scaffolds and ladders and lift heavy steel beams. In 1994, Juan Carlos was hit in the head, neck, and back by a steel beam, and was rendered unconscious at work. He sustained a concussion, a mild head injury, and as a result, over the next few months Juan Carlos experienced headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, and upper and lower back pain. He was subsequently terminated from his job and he filed for workers’ compensation. In an outrageous move, the company that Juan Carlos had worked so hard for responded to his compensation claim by saying he wasn’t entitled to the benefits because he was undocumented.
Juan Carlos’ case is just another example of a company benefiting from the hard work of an immigrant and then exploiting their undocumented status when the worker tries to exercise one of the few rights that workers have under the law. While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Juan Carlos was entitled to medical benefits, it also found that illegal immigration status might justify terminating benefits for temporary total disability.