Proposed law would end workers’ comp for undocumented workers

A proposed law before the state’s Senate would deny workers’ compensation to undocumented workers in North Carolina.

Bill widely condemned by hospitals and immigrant advocacy groups

A proposed law currently being considered by the North Carolina Senate would end workers' compensation benefits to undocumented workers, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. The change would represent a significant turn from current policy in the state. Critics of the bill say it will not only deny medical care to those who need it, but it will encourage employers to hire undocumented immigrants and cost hospitals a significant amount for treating people without workers compensation. Critics also say current law does not need to be changed as it benefits both employers and employees.

Bill before Senate

House Bill 369 is currently before the Senate and would mean that an employee who obtains a job using false identification would not be entitled to workers' compensation so long as the employer believed the worker was in the United States legally during the hiring process. Additionally, according to the Independent Weekly, the law would also deny benefits to undocumented workers who did not have valid identification when hired, but later became legal U.S. citizens.

Under the current law, businesses with three or more employees are required to buy workers' compensation or prove they have the required assets for self-insurance. The current law, advocates say, benefits both workers and employers, since it provides necessary medical benefits to the workers while protecting employers from lawsuits.

Proposal criticized by hospitals

Hospitals are particularly critical of the proposed change to the law. Federal law requires hospitals to treat all patients, regardless of whether or not that person has coverage. Hospital representatives say they currently do not typically ask about a patient's immigration status. If the proposed law passes, then much of the cost of treating undocumented workers who do not have workers' compensation would have to be absorbed by the hospital. Many high-risk occupations, especially in the fields of construction, manufacturing, and industry, are already taken on by many undocumented workers.

Other critics of the bill point out that it offers employers an incentive to hire undocumented workers over people legally residing in North Carolina. Since employers would not have to worry about providing compensation to such workers, they may turn a blind eye to a worker's immigration status in order to gain from cheaper labor.

Immigration law

As the above case shows, immigrants in North Carolina have to contend with an immigration system that can often appear intimidating and complicated. To ensure that a person's immigration issue is dealt with properly, he or she should contact a qualified immigration lawyer as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys can help both immigrants and businesses make sure that they are in full compliance with immigration law and that any issues they may have are resolved quickly and properly.

Keywords: North Carolina, undocumented workers, workers' compensation