An undocumented immigrant admits she gave a fake Social Security number (SSN) on a form when she was injured at work. Will her workers’ comp benefits be withheld because of that?
Edna Hernandez worked for Food Market Corp. in Florida and was injured on the job. She was sent to a medical provider and told she’d be required to enter a SSN on a form.
As an undocumented immigrant, Hernandez didn’t have a valid SSN.
Hernandez wrote a fake SSN on the form because she believed she needed to do so to get medical care.
Florida law prohibits an employee from receiving workers’ comp benefits if the worker makes fraudulent, false or misleading statements.
Food Market Corp. argued Hernandez violated the law by fraudulently providing an invalid SSN to obtain workers’ comp benefits.
A Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) ruled in the company’s favor. Hernandez appealed, arguing the Florida law was unconstitutional because it preempted the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).
What was fake SSN used for?
The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the IRCA is clear about this: “Any information employees submit to indicate their work status may not be used for purposes other than prosecution under specified federal criminal statutes for fraud, perjury, and related conduct.”
In this case, a Florida appeals court noted Hernandez didn’t claim the invalid SSN she provided to obtain workers’ comp benefits was previously provided for employment verification.
The court quoted a previous ruling: “No special rules apply to undocumented workers. Like any other employee, they must comply with the statute in order to obtain the statute’s benefits … the statute requires everyone to be truthful, responsive and complete.”
The appeals court said an employee’s “lack of lawful immigration status is not a defense to providing fraudulent information to obtain benefits.”
The JCC’s ruling was upheld. Hernandez would not get workers’ comp benefits because she provided a fake SSN.
(Edna Hernandez v. Food Market Corp., First District Court of Appeal State of Florida, No. 1D18-4406, 10/30/19)