There was a recent bill on the Florida Senate floor that could have changed the future of workers’ compensation claims in Florida. If it had passed into law, Senate Bill (SB) 1568 would have changed the language of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law to provide benefits to injured workers regardless of immigration status. The bill would have benefitted Florida’s immigrant employees, who could have gained access to the necessary medical care and benefits they need for their safety and health regardless of citizenship status in the States. Here’s what to know about SB 1568 and its future potential to become a law.
In essence, Senate Bill 1568 would eliminate a 2003 law that constituted presenting false information about a worker’s identity “felony insurance fraud.” Currently, if a worker in Florida intentionally presents false or misleading information about their citizenship or identities with the purpose of obtaining employment, that worker is guilty of a felony.
Yet another part of Florida workers’ compensation laws says a “worker” could be an immigrant who works either lawfully or unlawfully. Since 2004, Florida records show the courts have convicted at least 163 injured immigrant workers of felonies for providing false information during workers’ compensation claims. In the vast majority of cases (159), employers or insurance companies reported the immigrant workers.
According to the legislative director of the Florida AFL-CIO, Rich Templin, Florida and Wyoming are the only states that do not separate a workers’ legal status from a workers’ compensation claim – something Templin calls a “terrible injustice.” Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, sponsor of Senate Bill 1568, and the bill’s supporters hoped SB 1568 would clear up confusion surrounding Florida’s workers’ compensation laws and help workers receive the compensation they need to recover from work-related injuries regardless of immigration status.
The bill wouldn’t touch Florida’s immigration laws; rather, it would simply amend the workers’ comp laws by deleting a provision that prohibits workers from knowingly giving false identification. Basically, Senate Bill 1568 would clean up Florida’s current workers’ comp laws with an amendment that prevents companies from denying workers’ compensation benefits to an injured worker based on the person’s “citizenship, residency, or other employment status.”
On January 4, 2018, lawmakers filed Senate Bill 1568 for consideration. The Senate referred the bill to the Banking and Insurance, and Commerce and Tourism chambers on January 12th. By February 20th, Banking and Insurance approved the bill in a six/four vote. SB 1568 then went through a reference review before going to the Commerce and Tourism chamber. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 1568 died in Commerce and Tourism on March 10, 2018, where the Senate voted to indefinitely postpone the bill and withdraw it from consideration on this year’s ballot.
Despite SB 1568 dying this time around, it is possible for Congress to reintroduce the bill in the next re-election cycle (two years from now). Should Congress bring back Senate Bill 1568 for consideration, it may contain amendments in the hopes of the newer version passing through both chambers. For the Senate to reconsider a bill, a senator who did not vote or who voted on the “prevailing side” must reintroduce it. Keep your eyes open for SB 1568 in Florida’s future. Our Tampa employment attorneys at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC are happy to answer any questions with a free consultation today!
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