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House passes the Ohio Workers First Act

The Ohio House of Representatives recently approved House Bill 380, the Ohio Workers First Act. This act would prevent undocumented immigrants from filing workers’ compensation claims. The Ohio Workers First Act is designed to discourage employers from hiring undocumented immigrants by allowing injured workers to sue their employer if they can prove that the employer knew of their undocumented status. With no groups testifying in support of the bill, it generally lacks backing from businesses, labor groups and other officials, however it was still passed by the Ohio House.

Proponents of the bill claim that under the current law, businesses may be incentivized to hire undocumented workers because if those workers become injured, they will be covered by state workers’ compensation benefits. One state House representative states that by allowing undocumented workers to sue to company that hired them knowing they were undocumented, the bill dissuades employers from hiring low-wage, undocumented workers.

Injured workers would be required to provide certification to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S. or else their claim would not be paid. Supporters of the bill say it is consistent with the unemployment compensation system in place.

However, opponents of the bill fear that it may have the opposite of its intended effect. Critics such as the Legislative Service Commission doubt that undocumented immigrants who suffer workplace accidents will utilize the court system to advance such lawsuits.

One House representative argues that under the new bill, hospitals, health-care plans and citizens will be forced to pay for indigent workers’ medical expenses instead of employers who fund the workers’ compensation program. With so much controversy surrounding the act and with the Senate preventing the passage of a similar measure earlier this year, it remains to be seen whether House Bill 380 will be passed in the Senate.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio House passes bill blocking “illegal aliens” from workers’ comp, Jim Siegel, Dec. 6, 2017

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