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A tribunal in Quebec denies workers’ compensation to family of migrant worker who died on a farm
By Lonce Lamonte - February 26, 2023

A Guatemalan farm worker’s family was denied a death benefit compensation when the workers’ was crushed to death trying to repair a flat tire on his employer’s car.  Quebec’s labor tribunal denied them compensation. 

Ottoniel Lares Batizibal died July 18, 2021.  He was trapped under a car in the garage of Les Cultures Fortin Inc., a fruit and vegetable farm south of Quebec City.  His daughter, Maria Teresa Lares Macario, has said she has not been able to recover from the sudden death of her father.  She said in an interview with Global News, the Canadian Press, “The truth is we are not doing well.  We miss my father more each day.  He was a humble and hard-working man who loved his family.”

An administrative judge ruled February 7, 2023 that Lares Batzibal was using his employer’s car outside of working hours and that his positive intention to fix a flat tire was not related to his official duties.  He was not on the clock.

“After analysis, the tribunal concluded that the worker’s death did not occur in the course of his employment,” Valerie Lizotte, the judge, wrote. “Consequently, the estate cannot benefit from the death benefits provided for by law.”

An advocate for migrant workers in the province, who represented the family, Michel Pilon, argued to the tribunal that Lares Batzibal’s death was work related because he often acted as a designated driver to other farm employees.

“Even though he was not being paid at the time of the accident, I argued that he was the designated driver and riving his colleagues around was part of his work duties whether it was for leisure, to buy food, or for work,” Michel Pilon said in an interview.

The company said it was a personal decision Lares Batzibal made to repair a flat tire.  It was outside of his professional responsibilities.  Les Cultures Fortin, Inc. did not comment. 

“We are disappointed; it’s unjust,” the daughter of the deceased said.

If the tribunal had ruled in favor of the family, the compensation would have been about $100,000. 

The daughter and her mother, Norma Macario Tucubal, have now resorted to selling embroidered textiles in their village on the outskirts of Guatemala City.

The family did receive $50,000 in life insurance, said daughter Maria Teresa Lares Macario, but most of it went to pay the medical bill of her younger sister who fell ill after her father’s death and died on July 15, 2022 at the age of 20.

 

lonce@adjustercom.com, Lonce Lamonte, journalist, adjustercom. 

 
 

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