A workers’ compensation recipient did not forfeit his entitlement to benefits when he was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years probation, an upstate appeals court determined.
The Appellate Division, Third Department, panel said in Matter of the Claim of Islam, 515787, that 2007 amendments to §10(4) of the state Workers’ Compensation Law expressly disqualified recipients from benefits if they were convicted of, and incarcerated for, a felony.
But while claimant Saiful Islam was convicted of a felony and incarcerated in 2007, the court said the detention was by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Texas on suspicion that Islam was an illegal immigrant, not in relation to the sexual abuse charge.
Islam, who was eventually deemed to be a legal permanent U.S. resident, was released from federal detention in 2011. When he returned to New York and successfully reapplied to the Workers’ Compensation Board for the benefits he was granted in 2006 after a disabling construction accident, his former employer objected.
Justice Robert Rose (See Profile) wrote on April 10 that Islam’s incarceration at the behest of federal immigration officials did not exempt him from receiving work-related injury benefits.
“His confinement for immigration purposes … was civil and nonpunitive in nature, and its purpose was to determined whether he should be deported,” Rose wrote. “Accordingly, we are unpersuaded that claimant was ‘incarcerated upon conviction of a felony’ as that phrase is used in the statute.”
Lauren Bilasz of Weiss, Wexler & Wornow in Manhattan represented Islam’s former employer, BD Construction & Building. Assistant Attorney General Donya Fernandez argued for the Workers’ Compensation Board.