A whistleblower Web site less than three months old has already led to 328 complaints about companies violating Florida workers’ compensation laws, the Miami Herald reported Aug. 14. The Florida Division of Workers Compensation launched its site in June, requesting that people refer companies they believe are not in compliance with workers’ compensation laws. Visitors can complain anonymously and track the progress of their complaints through a referral number that does not identify them. They may also look up their companies to see whether a complaint has already been filed.
According to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink, the site had already produced 328 referrals to companies suspected of non-compliance, including 73 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Of those referrals, 36 ended with orders from the state to stop all work, including eight in Miami-Dade and two in Palm Beach County. The state also levied more than half a million dollars in penalties — $526,000, including $112,000 in Miami-Dade. Complaints are about companies doing business without the required workers’ compensation coverage, which includes companies that outright fail to buy insurance as well as companies hiding their non-compliance by paying employees outside an official payroll or misclassifying their employees to make their insurance rates cheaper.
As a Hollywood workers’ compensation lawyer, I am glad to see our state actively rooting out employers who fail to comply with the law. Failing to buy adequate workers’ compensation insurance doesn’t just violate the law — it has serious negative consequences for the injured worker. By law, people injured at work give up their right to sue over the injury in exchange for the right to make a workers’ compensation insurance claim — but they cannot do that if there is no insurance. When that happens, workers are left pretty much on their own to face six-figure medical bills and the challenge of making ends meet while they can’t work. In this way, employers that fail to meet their legal obligations victimize employees twice, because the failure to buy insurance is no fault of the employees’.