A bill intended to stop companies from dodging worker’s compensation benefit payouts to undocumented workers who are injured on the job is likely dead, state Sen. Gary Farmer, the bill sponsor, said Tuesday.
“I hate to wave the white flag, but it looks like I will,” the Fort Lauderdale Democrat said.
The effort was born in the wake of two news investigations last year that showed how a 2003 change to workers’ comp law in the state enabled some companies to deny benefits to undocumented workers after they were hired and injured at work. The injured workers would be reported to state law enforcement for using fake IDs or Social Security numbers.
Under current state law, workers who are injured on the job and use a fake ID face felony workers’ comp fraud charges. Farmer’s bill (SB 1568) would have changed that. But on Tuesday, he said the effort may have to wait until next year.
State workers’ comp law has also led the state’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services to refer five cases to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation after it received a complaint. Once referred to ICE, the individuals were deported. The division does not have the authority to serve in any immigration-related capacity, but it handles a variety of workers comp-related cases that have involved undocumented immigrants because of the way the law is written.
The proposal does not have a companion bill in the House, and Farmer said he is “not a fan” of the chamber’s workers’ comp bill to which he could potentially add his language.
Once stalled in the Senate, Farmer’s bill cleared its first committee stop earlier this month and was placed for first reading on the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, chaired by Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat.
Montford told both Florida Politics and Farmer that his committee is likely done meeting for the 2018 Legislative Session, which has a little over a week more to go.