Coalition calls on lawmakers to stop attack on undocumented workers
Posted June 05, 2019 in Press Releases
A coalition of Ohio organizations representing working people, churches, defense attorneys and others today called on the House Finance Committee to put a stop to an anticipated legislative attack against undocumented workers. In a letter to the House Finance Committee, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, The ACLU of Ohio, the Central Ohio Worker Center, The Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, Cleveland Jobs With Justice, HOLA Ohio, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Ohio Association for Justice, The Ohio Poverty Law Center and Policy Matters Ohio lambasted a provision expected to appear in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation budget, House Bill 80, which would exclude undocumented workers from protection.
The provision, which has been proposed in several prior sessions, would set Ohio apart as one of just two states to exclude undocumented workers; the other, Wyoming, does not go as far as prior Ohio proposals to also severely limit the right of injured workers to sue.
“Workers compensation was established as a way to balance the need for fast medical treatment if someone is hurt at work, with limited and known liability for employers,” said Emily Brown, of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. “This potential amendment could drag well-meaning employers who’ve paid their workers’ comp premiums into court. Earlier versions set such a high bar for legal remedy that they also raise concerns about access to justice for workers who have been harmed on the job.”
Ohio’s workers compensation system is efficient and solvent. This month, Ohio announced plans to rebate $1.5 billion in unused workers compensation premiums to Ohio employers in 2019. It will be the fifth time the state has returned funds of $1 billion or more since 2013.
“Excluding undocumented workers from workers’ compensation puts both them and their coworkers at risk,” said Michael Shields, researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. “It creates an incentive for unscrupulous operators to seek out undocumented workers, then cut corners on safety.”
The group urged the Finance Committee to pass HB 80 to fund the Bureau of Workers Compensation without consideration of any amendments that would bar undocumented workers or any other Ohio worker from coverage.