According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, there were close to 8.4 million unauthorized immigrants employed in the United States. In addition to the above, the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts about half of all hired workers employed in crop agriculture as unauthorized workers.
It is undeniable that the economy the US relies, in part, on the work of undocumented workers and Florida is no different. These workers get injured just like any other. What happens if these workers are injured? They are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits just as any other, with a few caveats.
The court has held that under the statutory definition of “employee” an illegal alien is not precluded from benefits. Cenvill Development Corp. v. Candelo, 478 So. 2d 1168 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). An exception arises when the claimant’s eligibility would depend on searching for and finding employment but is unable due to his or her illegal status. However, if the employer knew or should have known the true status of the employee they are estopped from denying benefits. This exception works twofold. It prevents an employer from knowingly using undocumented workers to avoid having to provide Workers Compensation benefits and also works to protect employers from having to continue paying wage loss benefits to an employee who can not legally obtain work due to his status.
Providing a invalid social security card and/or number to obtain employment, while a third degree felony, by itself does not preclude one from receiving benefits. Matrix Employee Leasing v. Hernandez, 975 So. 2d 1217 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). However, if a false social security number is given to a hospital or treating facility, the injured worker is disqualified from eligibility. Arreola v. AdminitrativeConcepts, 17 So. 3d 792 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).
As always, if you do not pay taxes you could be denied certain wage loss benefits. A lot of the time an undocumented worker will use a false social security number and have taxes taken out of their check. The problem is that, while the worker has the money deducted from his own wages, the tax credits are going to someone else or no one. In the above situation, this is considered income that is not reported to the taxing authorities and as such is not “wages” under the Workers’ Compensation system.
Being an agricultural juggernaut, Florida has a high percentage of undocumented workers and they get hurt like any other. These situations can become extremely complex. We would love to discuss your case and explain all your options to make sure that the Carrier is providing the correct benefits. This is why it is important to hire a workers’ compensation attorney who handles these types of situations and knows what your entitled to. If you or someone you know is in this situation, please give us a call at (877) 8174127.