The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday banning undocumented immigrants from filing workers compensation claims if they’re injured — a rule that some Ohio officials claim could give business owners incentive to hire more undocumented immigrant workers.
Ohio House Bill 380, also called the “Ohio Workers First Act,” would require workers to prove they are legally allowed to work in the U.S. when filing a worker’s compensation claim, according to a report by the Columbus Dispatch.
According to the Dispatch report, some lawmakers say the bill, which passed 60-32 with mostly Democratic opposition, would give companies more incentive to hire undocumented immigrants since companies wouldn’t have to pay the undocumented immigrants’ medical bills.
“We are giving employers a shield for hiring illegal aliens by shifting the responsibility to pay medical bills from employers and the workers’ compensation system to taxpayers,” Rep. John Boccieri, D-Poland, who opposed the bill, told the Dispatch.
Boccieri said injured workers would go to emergency rooms instead of filing workers compensation, and this could weigh down on hospitals and taxpayers.
According to the Dispatch report, there was no committee testimony from businesses in support of the bill, and the ACLU, Catholic Conference of Ohio, Ohio AFL-CIO and the Ohio Association for Justice (trial lawyers), oppose the bill.
Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who proposed the bill in October with Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said in an October press release that the bill would actually reduce employers’ incentive to hire undocumented workers because they are currently the responsibility of the workers compensation system.
“We all agree that Ohio government should put Ohioans first,” Householder said. “That’s especially true when it comes to Ohio’s workers and jobs.”
The bill now has to pass in the Senate, where it may be challenged. Senator Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, the chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, told the Dispatch no one has contacted him about the issue of worker’s compensation, and said he questions the bill’s effectiveness.
“In a strange way, while the goal is to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants, it could, some argue, have the opposite effect of that,” Hottinger said. “If there is not going to be consequences for them, and it’s no longer going to show up on an employer’s workers’ comp claim, for what I hope would be a very small handful of bad actors, it could have the perverse effect of encouraging the hiring of illegal immigrants.”
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center estimation, there are about 95,000 undocumented immigrants in Ohio. About 1 percent of Ohio’s labor force is comprised of undocumented immigrants, according to the estimates.