Ohio Law Would Prevent Workers’ Comp Payments to Illegal Aliens

Bill Seitz
Ohio Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati)

Ohio Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has reintroduced a bill that would prevent illegal immigrants from filing insurance claims with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for injuries incurred while working in the state illegally.

Sen. Seitz noted that his proposal, Senate Bill 176 (SB 176), has added significance because of recent decisions by Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) allowing illegal aliens to obtain Ohio driver’s licenses and to attend public colleges at in-state tuition rates.

SB 176 “does come at a time when these other two issues are percolating,” Sen. Seitz told Media Trackers.

“Currently, under Ohio law, illegal immigrants cannot get unemployment-comp, neither can they get Medicaid, except for in an emergency,” Seitz explained. “There is nothing in Ohio law that says whether they can or cannot collect workers’ comp, and therefore the bureau does not even check to see if a person is legally authorized to work.”

“When people say, ‘Well, how do you know that there’s a problem?’ I say, ‘I don’t know the extent of the problem, because they don’t check,'” he added, laughing.

Sen. Seitz explained that the original impetus for his idea came from a 2008 Ohio Senate hearing, when former BWC director Marsha Ryan confirmed that her bureau had no idea whether or not workers’ comp funds taken from Ohio businesses were going to illegal immigrants.

“This happened way back when Strickland was governor, and Marsha Ryan, then-BWC director, appeared before a Senate committee to talk about workers’ comp. Just for grins—because I didn’t know the answer—I said ‘I assume that you have mechanisms in place to reject claims submitted by illegal aliens,’” Seitz recounted.

“She didn’t know the answer, but she turned to her legal counsel,” he said, “and the legal counsel said ‘no, we do not, there’s nothing in Ohio law that authorizes us to check that, and therefore we have taken the position that we do not check for that.’”

If passed into law, SB 176 would also alter the state’s rules for civil actions for workplace injury compensation, stating that “no court in this state has jurisdiction over a claim for damages suffered by an illegal alien or an unauthorized alien by reason of personal injury sustained or occupational disease contracted by the illegal alien or unauthorized alien.”

The proposed language also stipulates that failure to comply with American immigration laws erects “a complete bar to a recovery of damages for such injury or occupational disease” for illegal aliens.

SB 176, formally introduced last week, has not yet been assigned to a standing committee for consideration and review.