Bill would prohibit workers comp to undocumented immigrants

By MARC KOVAC @ohiocapitalblog C-N Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- Three residents from northeastern Ohio urged state senators Wednesday to move legislation prohibiting workers compensation payments to undocumented immigrants.

Julie Aldrich, from Portage County, and John Muzik and Arzella Melnyk, from Lake County, spoke as proponents of Senate Bill 176, which seeks to hold companies that knowingly hire workers who are in the country illegally accountable for injuries.

"SB 176 would make an unscrupulous employer think twice before knowingly hiring illegal aliens," Aldrich told members of the Senate's Commerce and Labor Committee. "... We must get Ohioans back to work, and SB 176 is an ingenious way to have business owners follow our immigration laws when hiring and to open up jobs for our unemployed Ohioans."

The legislation, which had its second hearing Wednesday, would block workers compensation payments to individuals injured on the job who are working in the country without proper authorization or documents. And companies that knowingly hire such employees could face civil damages in cases of worker injury or death.

Comparable legislation has been offered for three straight general assemblies.

"Versions of this bill have been around for almost four years," said Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). "And in all versions of the bill, the essential principles have been no workers comp for illegal aliens and employers who knowingly hire them are going to be on the hook for those injuries so that the rest of us aren't picking up the tab for their misconduct."

Proponents said the law changes are needed to ensure jobs go only to residents working in Ohio legally.

"The problem with employers hiring illegal aliens has gone on for far too long," Melnyk said. "It's time these employers are held responsible for their hiring practices."

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