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Tribal Law Trumps WCL

 State: NY


SWCB Judge Defers to Tribal Law in Injury Case


An administrative law judge for the New York State Workers' Compensation Board ruled last week that an injured former employee of the Seneca Niagara Hotel cannot collect workers' compensation benefits because the Seneca Indian Nation dropped its workers' compensation coverage last year, the Buffalo News reported.


The newspaper said Rashinaz Khasanova, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, injured her back while moving a mattress at the hotel in September 2011 and began receiving benefits on Jan. 11, 2012. She was an employee of Seneca Gaming Co.


The Seneca nation dropped its workers' compensation policy with Arch Insurance in December 2011.


The tribe's third-party administrator, Tribal First, of San Diego, Calif., ruled Khasanova and six other workers had reached maximum medical improvement.


Khasanova and her Niagara Falls attorney, Lawrence Lindsay, filed a claim with SWCB contending that Seneca Gaming's workers' compensation policy was dropped.


Lindsay told the newspaper in an email that the ruling verified that Indian tribal law preempts the New York state workers' compensation law.


"The decision points out that under federal law, state law is preempted, and as such, the sovereign nation chose to exercise sovereign immunity and the state cannot do anything about it, quite frankly," Lindsay wrote in the email.


Phil Pantano, spokesman for Seneca Gaming, said it would have no comment on the ruling.


The story is here.


Source: The Buffalo News

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