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Paying “illegal aliens'” claims in no one's best interest?

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Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is sponsoring a bill that would bar injured undocumented workers from receiving workers compensation benefits.

Similar bills in other states were popular a couple of years ago, but most didn't survive to become law.

That is probably because smart employers and insurers know that cutting a group of people out of the comp system would likely send them into the tort system, which workers compensation was designed to stop.

Make it illegal for them to participate in the no-fault system where benefits are capped and they win the right to sue employers in court, which is a roll of the dice many companies and insurers find more risky.

But news stories report that Sen. Seitz, a Republican, has said that paying illegal aliens' workers comp claims is in no one's best interest. It is in employers' best interest if it prevents them from having to pay large jury awards or even prevents employers from paying legal bills to argue why they shouldn't be responsible.

The senator also reportedly said that his legislation “will deter unscrupulous employers from knowingly hiring illegal aliens and prevent them from passing the cost of their own illegal decisions onto employers who are following the law."

But comp system observers often argue that making it illegal for undocumented workers to collect injury benefits might encourage unscrupulous employers to cut their costs by hiring them so they wont have to pay for benefits should an injury occur.

A story about the Senator's legislation also says that the bill would require injured workers to certify that they are authorized to work in the country using the same processes in place to verify workers' status for unemployment compensation.

This might go against employers who prefer that administrative hurdles not prevent them from reducing workers comp costs by quickly resolving injury claims.

It will be interesting to see if this bill proceeds or dies like similar bills in other states have, especially because Ohio is a monopoly workers compensation state where insurance industry groups and employers may not be as active as in other states.

It is also possible that this bill's language makes it more air tight than past attempts in protecting employers.

For instance, the bill states that in cases involving undocumented workers, “an irrebuttable presumption exists that the individual assumed the risk of incurring an injury or contracting an occupational disease at the workplace, or dying as a result of such an injury or occupational disease, when performing services or providing labor for that employer.”