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Insurer, employer can’t deny benefits to undocumented workers

Thu Aug 11th, 2011 on     Insurance Claims,    

A Florida appellate court has ruled against an employer and an insurance company, saying that they must pay a workers’ compensation claim. The claim was denied because the employee was undocumented.

State officials estimate that Florida businesses employ tens of thousands of illegal workers. Construction companies in particular hire workers without seeing a valid driver’s license, a Social Security card or any kind of proof of citizenship — the boss hires the worker on for a day or two, pays cash, and the rest is history.

The social costs are myriad, but we are focusing on just the workers’ compensation issue today.

The worker was injured at the job site when he fell off a roof. Landing 30 feet below, he sustained serious injuries to his arm and his foot. As a result of his injuries, he could not take on any of his pre-injury lines of work — construction, farming and manufacturing. Lighter employment was forestalled because of his undocumented status, his lack of a driver’s license, his limited education and his poor English skills, the court explained.

The man, in constant pain even after extensive treatment, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The employer and workers’ comp carrier denied the claim, arguing that the man was able to perform sedentary tasks and, of course, wasn’t able to work anyway because he was undocumented.

The worker countered that the company either knew or should have known of his illegal status, so it could not assert that argument to justify the denial of his claim.

We’ll discuss the judge’s decision in our next post.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Florida Court Rules Illegal Workers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation,” Michael Adams, Aug. 11, 2011

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