Workers’ Comp Fraud A Growing Issue In Florida
Workers’ Compensation In Florida
The workers’ compensation program exists in Florida to get injured employees quick access to medical care. Hopefully, it leads to an employee’s swift recovery and return to the workplace, at a reasonable cost to the employer.
Most employers in the state of Florida are required to provide their employees with workers’ compensation insurance. The employer is responsible for paying the entirety of the workers’ insurance premium. Workers’ comp typically covers an employee’s medical care and lost wages when injured in a workplace accident. In many cases, receiving workers’ compensation prevents an employee from suing for additional damages.
Taking Advantage Of The System
Many employers have been taking advantage of the system when it comes to illegal immigrants. Employers have been accepting fraudulent paperwork to hire unauthorized immigrants, only to report them after they have been injured while working.
As a result, many employers escape having to pay workers’ compensation. The injured employee is not only denied workers’ compensation benefits but is typically also charged with a felony. Since 2004, there have been at least 163 immigrant workers who were charged with a felony after they were injured.
There is a Florida law that also makes it a crime for companies to hire employees they know use false identification. However, since the law passed in 2003, only one employer has faced charges for doing so. There is little incentive for employers to verify their worker’s documentation upon hiring, but there is a significant financial incentive to verify their worker’s documentation after an injury.
Essentially, many Florida companies are willing to turn a blind eye when it’s convenient for them to do so, but will quickly renege when there’s significant monetary benefit. This practice takes advantage of the state’s workers’ comp laws.
A Dangerous Precedent
If this fraudulent activity is not stopped, it could create a host of problems for employees both legal and illegal. Companies will be more willing to hire illegal employees because it is cheaper to do so, and they won’t face punishment if caught. If a legal employee is injured, the employer will need to pay their worker’s comp. But if an illegal employee is injured, there’s no reason for the employer not to turn them in. This could also make it more difficult for legal workers to find work because they’ll be considered more expensive and riskier in the eyes of their employer.
Knowing they could be deported could also reduce the number of workers’ comp claims filed by illegal workers, even though unauthorized workers are more likely to suffer an injury while working. This could also falsely boost a companies’ workplace safety statistics.