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Florida's SB 1568 Hopes To Keep Injured Workers Protected By Workers' Compensation Regardless Of Immigration Status
By Lonce Lamonte - February 8, 2018

Florida state Senator Gary Farmer has introduced a new bill designed to stop insurance companies from shirking off paying workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants by aiding in their arrests and deportations.  The bill, SB 1568, would eliminate the “false identity provision”, which exists in a 2003 workers’ compensation law that makes it a crime to file a work comp claim using a false identification. 

The practice has grown of insurers turning these injured workers in after they seek treatment, and after their employers transmit paperwork containing the social security numbers they’ve used for their hiring. Because the 2003 law made it a crime to apply for a job with a fake ID, hundreds of immigrant workers were charged inappropriately with workers’ compensation fraud even though they had never been injured or filed a claim. 

Legislators and advocates have been pushing for the bill since the summer 2017.  ProPublica and National Public Radio (NPR) documented in excess of 130 cases of immigrants who had suffered legitimate workplace injuries and then were referred to law enforcement agencies by their employers’ insurers.  The workers faced felony fraud charges for using false identifications when they sought medical care.  Then the insurers often avoided paying the workers’ compensation benefits.

Critics of the 2003 law not only criticize the law but how it is being used.  They express that it not only harms workers, but it allows unscrupulous construction companies and other employers in dangerous industries to hire illegal immigrants, and then take safety shortcuts knowing they won’t be held responsible for any injuries.  They say it then shifts these medical costs to the taxpayers. 

ProPublica on February 7th 2018 wrote and published this statement by Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO:  “This has sent a signal throughout the workforce that if you’re injured, don’t report it, don’t tell your boss because you know that in order to keep from paying benefits, they’re going to call immigration on you.  You will wind up in the public health care system.  That is essentially the taxpayer subsidizing the health care cost that should be paid by the employer and insurance carrier.” 

Senator Gary Farmer said to ProPublica, “We have a whole separate system to deal with immigration status.  All of that is neither here nor there.  It comes down to the fact that these folks were doing their jobs, got hurt while they were doing their jobs, and the separate issue of immigration status shouldn’t be used to take away the benefits that they’re entitled to.” 


The Florida Senate, SB 1568, by Senator Farmer

NPR: Florida Bill seeks to stop arrests of injured immigrant workers, Lonce Lamonte, journalist; copyright adjustercom and Lonce Lamonte, all rights reserved.  This article may not be republished without permission from the publisher.  $40 reprint fee upon permission and credit given to adjustercom.   


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