A bill that would deny workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants who have jobs in Montana was tabled by a Senate committee after several insurers and businesses warned it would do more harm than good to employers.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gordon Vance, R-Bozeman, said that under current law, when an illegal immigrant is awarded benefits they may leave the country and those benefits are then sent to their new address, taking the money out of Montana. He said that also makes it difficult to send a physician to check on the health status of the recipient.
He told the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee that Montana has the highest workers’ compensation rates in the country. The bill was tabled with an 8-3 vote, essentially meaning it would not move forward this legislative session, after several insurers and business representatives said it could punish employers instead of its intended target. Vance could not immediately be reached for comment.
They said employees who are illegal immigrants would likely sue employers if denied workers’ compensation because they would not have any other options to help them financially.
“This looks like a good idea at first blush,” said Brad Griffin of the Montana Retail Association. “But if you look under the hood it’s a bad idea.”
“I understand what the representative was trying to do,” said Bob Worthington, co-chair of the state’s Labor-Management Advisory Council. “But it doesn’t solve a problem, it creates another one.”
Vance told the panel the worker’s compensation issue was brought up during his campaign for office “and everybody I talked to was quite offended that this is what we do for workers’ compensation.”
The bill earlier passed the House 60-39, with no discussion.
In January, Kevin Braun, assistant general counsel of Montana State Fund, Montana’s insurance carrier, told the House Judiciary Committee that his agency has seven to eight claims a year in which the claimant’s Social Security number does not match.
In an earlier interview with MontanaWatchdog, Rebecca Smith, coordinator of the Immigrant Worker Justice Project for the National Employment Law Project, said Montana would be the first state in the nation to completely ban illegal aliens from receiving workers’ compensation.
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