ATLANTA (CN) – A woman claims her bosses paid her for 5 years knowing she was undocumented, but when she hurt her back and filed for workers comp, they called the police and tried to get her deported. She says she was arrested on more than 60 counts of “criminal forgery” – each count for cashing one of Shaw Industries’ weekly workers comp checks of $15.43, written to her under her assumed name.
Karina Garcia claims that Shaw Industries paid her regularly for 5 years, and that Shaw “was aware for much, if not all, of this time that the plaintiff was an undocumented immigrant, and that her given name was Karina Garcia.”
She says she used both her given name and the alias Cristal Sanchez at work, and that Shaw “knowingly profited from the use of undocumented immigrants at its Ben Hill County, Georgia plant for 10 years.”
Shaw, based in Dalton, Ga., employs 32,000 people and is the largest broadloom carpet maker in the world, according to its article in Wikipedia. It became a member of the Berkshire Hathaway group in 2000.
In March 2007, Garcia says, she suffered a serious back injury and work and filed a workers compensation claim under both her given and assumed names.
Shaw Industries paid her $15.43 a week in workers comp check, made out Cristal Sanchez, and she endorsed them that way.
A year after the accident, still unable to work, Garcia says her doctor told her she needed back surgery. Shaw refused to cover it, so Garcia says she “had to bring an action to recover the benefits she was due.”
Shaw called her to a deposition in the case.
“Prior to the deposition of the plaintiff, the defendant stated that it sought only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to a simple question about the plaintiff’s immigration status,” according to the complaint. “The defendant also wrote in pleadings that the plaintiff’s answer to that question would not incriminate her in any possible criminal proceeding. See Exhibit A.”
But Garcia says that when she “stepped outside of her lawyer’s office where the deposition was taken, however, there were police officers waiting for her.
“The officers had a warrant for the plaintiff’s arrest that alleged over 60 counts of criminal forgery, one count for each nominal ($15) workers’ compensation check on which the plaintiff had signed the name ‘Cristal Sanchez’.”
She says she was “not immediately given the opportunity to call someone to inform them of her arrest and ask them to care for her four young children, and so her children, who expected her home, were alone and worried for several hours.”
She spent the night and much of the next day in jail. Meanwhile, her workers comp attorney called the fraud unit of the state Workers Compensation Board, and asked that she be released.
The supervisor initially refused to take action, but changed his mind when shown the workers compensation application listing both her given and assumed names – a document he had never seen before, the complaint states.
Garcia was released from jail, but her troubles continued.
“On August 5, 2010, Immigration Services came to the plaintiff’s home and initiated deportation proceedings against her.” She says that Shaw’s “conduct has exacerbated the plaintiff’s medical condition and caused her severe emotional distress and pain and suffering.”
She seeks punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation and compounding a felony.
She is represented in Fulton County Superior Court by Brent Savage with Savage, Turner, Kraeuter, Pinckney, Britt & Madison of Savannah.