Florida lawmakers are taking steps to insure that immigrant employees are fairly compensated for their workplace injuries.
The actions come on the wake of an investigation that uncovered some unsavory tactics a few businesses are using. Those businesses are manipulating the law to deprive injured workers of their rights.
How undocumented workers get legally abused
It's no secret that Florida has a lot of undocumented immigrant workers -- around 600,000. Many of those immigrants take jobs that other people don't want for what the employer is willing to pay. The jobs are often physically risky -- involving things like construction, roofing and landscaping.
Employers are required by law to ask for identification when they hire someone, but they aren't required to verify it. Although it is a crime to hire someone using a fake ID, employers turn a blind eye to the issue -- until an employee gets injured.
Then, either the employer or its insurance company will suddenly decide to check the identification of the worker. When it turns out to be fake, they turn the injured employee in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Since using fake identification is a crime, the employee gets deported. The insurer never has to pay the claim, and the employer's workers' comp insurance premium never gets raised.
With the threat of deportation hanging over their heads, many undocumented immigrants don't dare report an injury. Some employees say that it doesn't matter, however. If their employer even finds out that they've been injured at all, a call goes into immigration.
How lawmakers propose to stop the abuse
Florida lawmakers are now proposing legislation that won't allow companies off the hook for an undocumented worker's injuries -- whether he or she was using a false ID or not. That would reduce the incentive employers have to seek these workers out for exploitation or to turn them into ICE.
In the long run, since unsafe working conditions affect everyone in the workplace, it may also force those employers who are reluctant to put the money into safety training and equipment to accept their responsibilities.
Any employee who fears retaliation from an employer over a workers' compensation claim should consider finding out more about their legal rights before they file.
Source: naplesnews.com, "Florida legislators discuss change in law that punishes injured immigrant workers," Maria Perez, Jan. 16, 2018