More on immigrant workers

April 16th, 2004 by Julie Ferguson

Recently, we posted about the AP investigation on Mexican workers and their shocking on-the-job death rate. Jordan Barab at Confined Space has an in-depth, not-to-be-missed follow-up to this story that discusses what OSHA is doing about immigrant worker safety.

And one of our readers pointed us to an article from the Palm Beach Post about the Florida workers comp law being biased against Hispanics:

“If the families of eight migrant farm workers killed in a rollover west of Fort Pierce lived in Canada, they would get $150,000 in workers compensation death benefits. But because they live in Mexico, they’re entitled to only $75,000.”

This egregious injustice is the result of a 1920s law that has never been rescinded, and although the Florida Supreme Court deemed this unconstitutional, in state reforms last year, not only wasn’t this unfairness addressed, the legislature actually upped the benefit for Canadians from $1000,000 to $150,000.

Although the law has been challenged successfully, left unchallenged, insurers still use it as a basis for settlements. For an immigrant family to prevail, they would have to know about the entitlement in the first place, be aware of the discrepancy, be aware of successful challenges to the law, and be willing to forego compensation during a lengthy court challenge. The article points out that “Since 1990, nearly 30 percent of the cases settled, according to Florida Division of Workers Compensation. The average settlement: $32,000.”

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