An article recently published by National Public Radio (NPR) and ProPublica highlights the issues undocumented workers face following on the job injuries. (En Español) The article shows how insurance companies use a Florida law to get undocumented workers arrested and deported when they get injured on the job.
Florida’s Workers’ Compensation law provides the right to undocumented workers to receive medical care and lost wages for on the job injuries. However, in 2003 Florida’s legislature modified the law to make it a crime to file a workers’ compensation claim using false identification. Additionally, under the law it is a crime to knowingly make false statements, oral or written, for the purpose of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. If a false social security number is used in the claim such as writing it on an intake form at a doctor’s office, or while speaking with the insurance carrier (especially if it’s recorded), the injured worker can be denied workers’ compensation benefits and prosecuted for fraud. However, there is nothing in the law to require providing a social security number to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. See our tips for undocumented workers below for more advice on how to avoid pitfalls while pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.
For the article, ProPublica and NPR analyzed 14 years of state insurance fraud data and thousands of pages of court records. They found close to 800 cases statewide in which employees were arrested under the law, including at least 130 injured workers. Among the findings:
While most employers in Florida require applicants to complete forms to verify their identity, the majority of those employers fail verify the information at the time of hiring. Yet, those same employers will only attempt to verify the employee’s information AFTER a workplace injury and attempt to use that to deny the claim, no matter how significant the injury. In fact, as the article points out, a large private investigation firm (hired by insurance carriers to investigate injured workers) posts the arrests it has been involved in on their website which is unsurprisingly full of undocumented workers who provided false information (likely a fake social security number) in their workers’ compensation case.
The issue is injured workers don’t provide this false information to defraud the insurance company. Rather, they are usually told by their employer or the insurance carrier that they have to provide that information, such as a social security number on intake forms at doctors’ offices or when speaking to the carrier. It is clear that the insurance carriers have used these changes in the law to avoid their financial and ethical obligations to provide care for undocumented workers’ on the job injuries. Luckily, Republican State Senator Anitere Flores has pledged a legislative review of the law. Hopefully this is a sign that more protections will be added for undocumented workers but those who have suffered on the job injuries should remain vigilant as they are still vulnerable under the current law.
If you have been instructed to provide information in your workers’ compensation claim that you know is fraudulent, make sure to read our tips below and to consult with an attorney regarding your rights under the law.
Tips for Undocumented Workers
If you or your loved ones have sustained a work-related trauma, contact the attorneys at Lancaster & Eure today to ensure you will have an advocate who will fight for the benefits you truly deserve.