Proposed North Carolina legislation would prohibit undocumented workers from collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
A bill that passed the North Carolina House of Representatives in April 2014 and has been introduced to a committee in the Senate in June 2014 would change the state’s workers’ compensation laws so that undocumented immigrant workers would not be eligible for benefits. The proposed bill has several critics, and it could significantly impact workers’ compensation coverage for North Carolina workers.
Currently, state law requires businesses with at least three employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage, or prove that the business has sufficient assets to self-insure. This insurance pays for medical care and other benefits when employees are injured on the job. An employee’s immigration status usually does not impact workers’ compensation claims.
However, HB 369 would change the law so that undocumented workers are not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, the bill states that if an employee misrepresented his or her documentation status at the time of hire and later obtains documentation allowing for legal employment, the employee is still ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Many have voiced criticisms of the proposed legislation. Critics note that undocumented workers often work in the meat processing, landscaping and construction industries, which are some of the most dangerous jobs in the state, carrying great risk of injury. Additionally, many undocumented workers often have no medical insurance, so workers’ compensation is the only way they can pay for their medical care after a workplace injury. If an undocumented worker were to be injured on the job and could not pay for medical care without workers’ compensation benefits, taxpayers will end up covering the cost instead. Hospitals are not allowed to turn people away for inability to pay, so taxpayers end up footing unpaid medical bills.
Others note that the bill would give employers an incentive to hire and exploit undocumented workers. Employers would be able to hire workers without having to worry about paying potential workers’ compensation claims. Employers would also have no need to worry about making sure that workplaces are safe for employees.
Workers’ compensation benefits are critical for those who have been injured on the job. Employers and insurers often try to avoid paying workers’ compensation claims by denying the claims. If you have suffered a workplace injury, it is wise to have the assistance of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney to advocate on your behalf. If you have questions about workers’ compensation benefits, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you recover all the benefits to which you are entitled by law.
Keywords: workers’ compensation; workers’ compensation law; workers’ compensation benefits