North Carolina Policy Watch devoted the September 2012 issue of its Carolina Issues Poll to issues relating to the rights of workers and workplace safety. North Carolina Policy Watch is a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. The polling was a follow up on the Raleigh News and Observer’s recent series of articles on shortcomings in the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. The results demonstrate the public’s support for North Carolina’s workers’ comp laws requiring businesses to cover their employees.

As noted here previously many North Carolina employers who are required to carry workers’ compensation in North Carolina fail to do so. As a result workers injured on the job in NC are often left without access to the medical and wage replacement benefits they are entitled to by NC workers’ comp law. All too often these NC workers must rely on Medicaid or other public programs to get the treatment they need. This means that the costs of the treatment for their NC workplace injury is shifted from the employer, where it belongs, to the taxpayer or the public at large. The News and Observer articles demonstrated that the laws on the books requiring NC workers’ comp coverage they are simply not enforced. According to the survey, North Carolinian’s overwhelmingly support tougher enforcement of the requirement that employers provide workers’ comp insurance. Seventy two percent of those surveyed favored enforcing those NC workers’ comp laws.

The News and Observer also recently exposed the proliferation of workers’ compensation “ghost policies.” These policies allow construction contractors to get onto the job site without providing actual workers’ comp coverage for employees, who they try to pass off as “independent contractors.” This practice gives unethical employers who skirt the law a competitive advantage over honest employers. Frequently, these workers don’t even know that they have been improperly classified. According to the North Carolina Policy Watch Poll seventy eighty percent of North Carolinian’s would support a law requiring employers to clearly tell their employees, in writing, whether they are “employees” or “independent contractors.”  As a Raleigh, NC, area workers compensation lawyer I see this problem frequently.

Kevin Bunn is a Raleigh, NC, Board Certified NC workers’ compensation lawyer. Please call or email for your free consultation.

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