An analysis of workers' compensation cases in Florida revealed that insurers were exploiting the fact that the employees they insured were undocumented, in order to get out of paying their medical bills and lost wages.
In the U.S., states often provide undocumented workers the right to receive workers' compensation. But in Florida, the state enacted a law that makes it a crime to file a workers' compensation claim using a false identification. Insurers are allegedly abusing this law.
According to ProPublica and NPR, which analyzed 14 years of state insurance fraud data, there were almost 800 cases in the state where undocumented employees were arrested under the law — 130 of those employees were injured.
"An additional 125 workers were arrested after a workplace injury prompted the state to check the personnel records of other employees," ProPublica and NPR reported.
Simon Blank, the director of the Florida insurance fraud unit, told NPR and ProPublica that it was not his organization's responsibility to find the intent of the insurance companies that filed a complaint. He said it would be "unfortunate" if insurers were indeed using the law to get out of paying workers' compensation for undocumented immigrants.
Florida is not the only state that has tried to curtail undocumented immigrants' rights to workers' compensation. In Ohio, a chicken processor, Case Farms, has garnered attention for quelling its employees' labor disputes by using their immigration status to eliminate dissent and avoid paying for injuries, ProPublica reported.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio wrote a letter to the CEO of Case Farms saying that the allegation “raises serious questions about the company’s commitment to workers’ safety and workers' rights.”
“Each infraction on its own is concerning,” Brown wrote, “but taken together they underscore a corporate culture at Case Farms that appears to emphasize profit maximization at all costs, including workers’ livelihoods and limbs.”