As we reported in this blog on April 27, the Ohio Senate was considering Senate Bill 238, sponsored by Senator Seitz (R-Cincinnati) proposing to preclude workers’ compensation coverage to those workers unable to establish U.S. citizenship. It is with great regret that we report that on May 27, the Senate, by a vote of 21-12, passed this bill. However, the bill has yet to be acted upon by the Ohio House. As both the Ohio House and Senate are in summer recess, the House will not take up the bill before Fall, 2010.
Many groups opposed this bill, including the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission. Testimony submitted to the Senate Insurance Committee cited a Pew Hispanic Center study that estimated that only 1.1% of all Ohio’s workforce is undocumented. Thus, there exists no proof that undocumented workers are “raiding” the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system with claims where such workers make up such a small percentage of all workers in the state. In addition, this bill would give an incentive to employers to avoid determining the immigration status of a potential employee. Where such employee is injured, the employer could then invoke Senate Bill 238 and avoid liability of even the most serious injuries. Thus, this bill does the opposite of its purported intent: to encourage employers to hire undocumented workers.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation asserted that the bill’s requirement that all injured workers submit documentation within 28 days of filing of the claim would result in unnecessary delays in the receipt of benefits to injured Ohio workers. The Bureau argued that requiring such documentation is contrary to their of goal of providing timely medical care and compensation to injured workers.
Equal to Arizona’s illegal immigration law, this bill is mean-spirited, punishes the individual, and does nothing to address this national social concern. We trust the Ohio House will agree and reject this bill outright.