DC: Professor Sues for Workers’ Comp


By Liz Carey

Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – A former American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) professor has filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for workers’ compensation after being injured in an attack at the school.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed, the professor claims that since the school was under a five-year $40 million agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development; the school should have been covered by Defense Base Act insurance coverage, which the Department of Labor (DOL) oversees. 

Cecil Lui, a native of Hong Kong with dual citizenship in Canada, worked as an associate professor of finance at AUAF. Lui was injured when suspected Taliban members attacked the school in August 2016. The attack left 14 dead and more than 50 wounded, when a car bomb blew out a wall that allowed attackers to enter the school and open fire.

Lui said in the complaint that he sustained injuries to his neck, chest, esophagus, vocal chords and larynx, as well as emotional and psychological damage. Lui was teaching on the second floor of one of the school buildings. After sustaining the injuries in the attack, he jumped from his classroom window and suffered injuries to his left wrist and elbow from the fall. 

When the university re-opened, Lui said he was unable to return to work. AUAF continued to pay Lui through March 20, when it offered to pay him through June, provided he signed a confidentiality agreement and a liability release with the University. Lui declined to sign the agreement.

Lui has since filed a claim with the U.S. DOL. His attorney, Scott Thaler, argues that the Defense Base Act would have required the AUAF to obtain Defense Base Act insurance.

In an informal conference, the DOL found in Lui’s favor and recommended that AUAF pay Lui more than $1,000 per week, “until he has recovered from his injuries and/or has reached maximum medical improvement allowing him to return to work.” The DOL also suggested that AUAF should reimburse Lui for all treatment associated with his injuries, including treatment by Lui’s doctor of choice.

In a statement, the University said it has been supporting the professor.

“The entire university community has been deeply affected by the attacks and AUAF has been supporting all of its students, faculty and staff through the difficult recover process,” the school said. “With respect to Professor Lui’s claims, the university was only recently made aware of the Department of Labor proceeding and did not have the opportunity to participate in it, but is now studying the issues involved.”

But Thaler, Lui’s Boca Raton (FL)-based attorney, said the DOL has found that the school should have been covered by Defense Base Act insurance and that Lui should receive those workers’ compensation benefits the insurance provides for compensation and medical benefits.

“He has very extensive injuries,” Thaler said in an interview with WorkersCompensation.com. “Our position is that it is the university’s responsibility to pay for his medical care and compensation during his treatment. We’re doing our best to fight for Dr. Lui’s best interest and see that he receives what he deserves through the Defense Base Act.”

The case has been referred to the DOL for a formal hearing.

Thaler said there was no indication, at present, when that hearing would be held. 

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