Columbus, OH (WorkersCompensation.com) – It’s now up to the State Senate to tackle the budget bill for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. What’s become controversial legislation was approved in the House last week and introduced in the Senate on Friday. Included is a provision that would require injured workers to specify their immigration status.
Claims forms would require employees seeking benefits to check one of three boxes to indicate whether they are
Not a citizen but legally authorized to work in the U.S., along with the alien registration number of other signifier showing legal authorization to work in the U.S.
Illegally working in the U.S.
While the amendment has been roundly criticized from sources beyond Ohio’s borders, its sponsor says there is a good reason for it.
“It is my firm conviction there are many, many illegal aliens collecting workers’ compensation in Ohio. I do not believe that is appropriate,” Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati told WorkersCompensation.com. “Four or five states have barred illegal aliens from getting workers’ compensation. We are taking a baby step to collect data. Until you have good data, don’t know the scope of the problem.”
Two years ago, Ohio lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to adopt language that would deny workers’ compensation benefits to workers hired illegally. Seitz’ effort to advance that this year again failed.
“This time, we decided to take a kinder, gentler approach, directing the BWC to change the claim form so claimants would have to check box 1, 2 or 3,” he said. “If they lie on the form, that will be construed as fraud.”
Those who answer the immigration question honestly will be entitled to benefits — even those who indicate they are working in the U.S. illegally. “As long as they tell the truth,” Seitz said.
As for what will happen to the data collected, that remains to be seen. “The amendment does not speak to that,” he said. “That will be the next step.”
As for opponents’ comments that the amendment will discourage workers from being truthful on the immigration question, “I can’t help that,” Seitz said. “If you want a claim paid, answer it truthfully. If not, it’s up to you … we won’t sanction lying on a government form.”
Nor does Seitz want employers get away with hiring illegal workers. “That’s another purpose for the data,” he said. “If we share those forms with the employer, he’d be on notice that this person is illegal… I don’t believe illegals should get workers’ compensation; neither do I believe employers should get off Scott free or incentivized to hire more illegals. Employers are guilty here too.”
The budget bill must be approved one way or another by June 30.