Florida’s economy is heavily dependent on certain types of industries. Along with California and Texas, Florida is one of the country’s largest employers of agricultural workers.
Because many crops and agricultural products are stored in warehouses before being shipped to various parts of the country, Florida companies also employ a large number of warehouse workers.
Although warehouse and farm workers are a fundamental part of the U.S. economy, they aren’t always compensated well for the jobs they perform.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average salary for a farm worker is just $10,000 a year.
Many agricultural and warehouse workers struggle to make ends meet. When they get injured on the job, workers’ compensation benefits can be the difference between going hungry and being able to put the food on the table.
If you have been injured in a warehouse, orange field, or any other agricultural position, speak to a West Palm Beach workers’ compensation Attorney about your case.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Undocumented Farm Workers
With its close proximity to Mexico, Latin American, and the South American continent, Florida is a popular destination for individuals who wish to pursue opportunities to make a better life in the United States.
As a result, the agricultural industry sees a large number of undocumented workers.
Whether you are a migrant worker or a seasonal worker, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt on the job.
Under Florida law, employers in the agricultural industry are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage when they employ a minimum of six regular employees or 12 seasonal workers who work over 30 days during the season.
All other employers, including employers who hire warehouse workers, must maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage if they employ four or more workers.
These workers can be either part-time or full-time.
Florida is also one of several states that extends workers’ compensation coverage to undocumented immigrants.
In 2011, a Florida appeals court ruled that a Florida worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, even though he was working in the state illegally at the time of his work-related accident.
In HDV Construction Systems Inc. v. Luis Aragon, the court ruled that the worker, who was seriously injured when he fell 30 feet from a ladder, could receive workers’ compensation wage benefits.
The court also held that his employer knew or should have known about the worker’s undocumented status – putting the burden on employers to thoroughly investigate workers before hiring them.
Warehouse Workers: Employees or Independent Contractors?
To cut costs, some companies use independent contractors rather than traditional employees.
This practice can save companies millions of dollars each year, as they don’t have to pay the overhead expenses that come with hiring employees.
These expenses include payroll taxes, vacation time, health insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and other benefits.
The problem with this system is that a large number of warehouse workers are not only underpaid, they are misclassified as independent contractors when they are actually employees.
Amazon is just one company to have been hit with a lawsuit claiming it misclassified its warehouse workers.
Target was also sued for not providing its warehouse workers with benefits required by law.
Because many companies ramp up during certain times of the year, such as the holiday gift-buying season, they prefer to use independent contractors to increase their staff during their busy periods.
If they are treating these workers as employees, however, these employers are responsible for providing their warehouse workers with workers’ compensation coverage.
Even if your company required you to sign an agreement saying you are considered an independent contractor, don’t assume you are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
What matters in your case is how the employer treated you. For example, if you wore a company uniform, reported to the same warehouse each day, and worked only for a single company, you may have actually been an employee at the time of your injury.
We Protect the Rights of Injured In a Warehouse Workers
After an on-the-job injury, it may feel like the deck is stacked against you. The best thing you can do for yourself and your case is to speak to a West Palm Beach workers’ compensation lawyer.
We are committed to helping workers in all industries get the benefits they need. Call us today to learn more about the Florida workers’ compensation claims process.