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Should Illegal Immigrants Be Denied Workers' Compensation?

As we've said in prior posts, the federal government values workplace safety. This is evidenced by the establishment of OSHA to ensure that employers are following federal safety standards. Even so, some workplace accidents still occur.

When an employee sustains a work injury, they can typically claim workers' compensation in order to help them financially while they are recovering. The process can be confusing, especially since it means dealing with insurance companies in order to obtain the benefits. But many employers are starting to face challenges when it comes to illegal immigrants seeking workers' compensation after a work injury.

One state has recently proposed a bill to legislation that would ban illegal immigrants from getting those benefits. Is this something that other states should consider? What are the implications of illegal immigrants obtaining workers' compensation?

The bill has already been endorsed by the state's House and is expected to be presented in the Senate in the near future. But there are two opposing viewpoints in regards to this proposal:

  1. Supporters believe that the new bill would help deal with high workers' compensation rates in the state. They also take the stance that the bill will discourage employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.
  2. Opponents are under the impression that the bill could cause a lot of problems for business owners who unknowingly hire illegal immigrants, especially if the worker sues after being denied workers' compensation.

Another concern that surfaced was that the proposed bill could actually increase costs for individuals if the injured workers cannot pay for their hospital bills.

Ultimately the question becomes: should illegal immigrants be able to claim workers' compensation benefits?

Source: Bloomberg online, "Illegal immigrant bill clears Montana House hurdle," Matt Gouras, 19 January 2011

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Eley Law Firm
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