Florida Statute Section 440.09(4)(a) provides that an employee shall not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the employee has intentionally or knowingly engaged in any of the acts described in s. 440.15 for the purpose of securing workers’ compensation benefits.
Knowingly presenting false ID to obtain employment is an act described in s. 440.15 as being prohibited. Will performing such an act prevent an employee injured on the job from receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
In Matrix Employee Leasing and FCIC/First Commercial v. Hernandez, 975 So.2d 1217 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008), Mr. Hernandez obtained employment by presenting an invalid social security card. The employer did not learn that the card was invalid until the day Mr. Hernandez was hurt on the job.
Relying on 440.15 and 440.09, the Employer/Carrier denied benefits. The claimant countered that because the invalid ID was used to obtain employment rather than secure workers’ compensation benefits, benefits should not be denied. The JCC [Judge of Compensation Claims] agreed, ordering the E/C to pay workers’ compensation benefits. The E/C appealed the JCC’s order.
The Florida First DCA affirmed the JCC’s order. It decided that only when the acts contained in 440.15 are performed for the purpose of securing workers’ compensaiton benefits, will 440.09 bar the receipt of workers’ compensation benefits.
The Matrix decision does not mean that undocumented workers have the same right to workers’ compensation benefits as documented workers, because they do not.
In a previous blog, I explained that unless an injury causes total disability (i.e., the complete inability to work), as opposed to a partial disability, undocumented workers are not entitled to workers’ compensation lost wage benefits. For any injured worker to receive lost wage benefits for a partial disability, he or she must prove that the wage loss has resulted from the injury. Since undocumented workers are not allowed to work [in the U.S.], the law considers irrelevant any other reason for their inability to work.
In conclusion, obtaining employment through false documentation is not an absolute bar to receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Medical benefits and some lost wage/indemnity benefits (temporary total disability and permanent total disability) may be available to undocumented workers.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.
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