The Trib is reporting on a bill that Mike Morley is going to put forward in the upcoming session. The bill will cut off worker's comp payments for people who go to jail or who are illegal immigrants. (Anybody got a link to the actual proposed bill?)
I'm awfully torn on this issue and I'd be interested to hear some other perspectives on this. Let me try to sum up the arguments on both sides of the debate. First, in favor of the bill: If you are hurt and getting compensation payments to make up for the fact that you can't work, and then you get thrown in jail, why would you still receive compensation payments? You can't work in jail either! The bill stops people from getting paid while they are in jail.
Likewise, if you were illegally working in the country, got hurt, got on worker's comp, and then got deported, you aren't able to work in the US anymore. Even if you don't get deported, you shouldn't be working here anyway. Since you are unable to work because of your own choices and actions (rather than merely those of your employer), we're not going to give you worker's comp.
I find the arguments in favor of the legislation quite compelling. The arguments against it also have a lot of bite. If we pass a bill like this, we give employers with higher incidences of worker's comp claims an incentive to hire illegal immigrants since they will likely be able to weasel out of making the payments. This backwards incentive encourages exploitation of the most vulnerable people in our society.
The argument against the bill continues: If I get hurt on the job, you're going to pay workers comp not just to replace the income I'll lose because I can't work, but also as a sort of punitive measure against employers who don't have sufficiently safe work environments. This is a very capitalist motivator for employers to make their workplaces as safe as reasonably possible to minimize comp claims. Just because I'm in jail doesn't mean the employer should be spared the punitive effect of the comp claim.
Does that sound like a fair summary of the pro and con positions? Do you find it hard to pick a side here? I'd say we ought to end the payments to guys who end up in jail. I'm less convinced that we ought to end the payments for illegal immigrants.
I should note that a couple of arguments were mentioned in the article that I found to be totally bogus. One person noted that "the people who would be hurt by the bill would be family members of a worker who gets arrested for drunken driving or drug use." Let's be clear: the person penalizing the wife and children was the jerk who chose to drive drunk. Injured or not, you're responsible for your own actions. Naturally, I don't want to see innocent women and children being hurt, but they were going to be hurt just the same by the person getting thrown in jail if there was no comp claim involved.
The other bogus argument was "that the measure discriminates against injured workers who don't speak English, primarily Latinos and Asians." C'mon! We're not cutting off a comp claim because you don't speak English. We're cutting off the claim because of something you DID not something you ARE. Pulling the race card or the language card is just silly in this instance.
I think that one problem is that in our current system, nobody is authorized to ask for proof of citizenship or legal residency. The bill is supposed to change that. Utah has some of the most pro-illegal-immigration laws and statutes in the nation. I think Morley wants that to change.
I wonder, however, if a law like this would only increase the incentive for black market employment. Would it simply make it easier for employers that knowingly hire illegals to keep such employees to blow off paying for worker's comp insurance? Would it incentivize illegals that get hurt on the job to avoid reporting injuries and avoid getting medical care because they are afraid of being jailed or deported? It's an unfortunate dilemma.
I was just going through your blog and appreciated the thought-provoking questions raised. As you have mentioned, newspapers do a poor job of representing facts. This year, I have had several less-than-accurate articles written about bills I have sponsored. Here is a link to HB 384 http://le.utah.gov/~2008/htmdoc/hbillhtm/HB0384S01.htm. The bill was brought to me by the Utah Retail Grocers in response to the King court case wherein the Supreme Court of Utah held that although Mr. King was able to return to work physically, he was unable to do so because of his felony conviction and incarceration. The court held that under current statute, he was eligible to receive wage replacement benefits until he could return to work. The bill really doesn't address illegal immigration and does not affect permanent, total disability which they would still be entitled to or medical benefits or wage replacement benefits while a person is unable to return to work. It simply states that if a person could return to work either in light duty or full duty circumstances but for their own illegal acts or termination with cause (a recent situation found an employee returning to light duty, then stealing from their employer and being fired, but continuing to receive wage replacement benefits), wage replacement benefits would be terminated. As you can see from the text of the bill, once again Paul Rolly misstated the facts. It is impossible to keep up with all of the blogs. If you ever have concerns about any of my votes or bills, please call me at 636-0296. I'm always willing to answer to my constituents.
Rep. Mike Morley
Thanks, Rep. Morley. I appreciate your response and the link to the bill. It wasn't yet available by number when I wrote this post.
Thank you Bradley for looking at this issue fairly and from "both sides." I wish the newspapers could follow your lead when it comes to reporting. By the way, I fully agree with Mike Morley.
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