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Proposed North Carolina law may bar some workers' compensation

A proposed change has many in North Carolina outraged at the possible consequences it may have on undocumented workers. The proposal would bar these workers from filing and receiving workers' compensation benefits. Since an estimated 5 percent of the state's workforce consists of these workers, the bill could have a huge impact.

Many of the more dangerous jobs are undertaken by undocumented workers. When they suffer a job-related injury, they are statistically less likely to file a claim, possibly out of a fear of being detained for being undocumented. However, under current laws, all workers are entitled to coverage for workers' compensation, regardless of legal status. This law also currently protects employers, since they cannot be held liable if the worker receives compensation.

The origin of the proposal was difficult to discern for a time. Some believed that the Industrial Commission initiated the change; however, that could have been seen as a conflict of interest since this body oversees the approval of these claims. It has now been traced back to an individual who supposedly felt that undocumented workers were possibly exploiting the system by continuing to receive benefits after they were cleared to return to work.

For the time being, the proposal has not passed, and there is intense pressure to table the matter. The outcome of passing the measure could result in higher costs for employers, health care providers and taxpayers. The issue is expected to be reviewed in the near future. At the present time, all North Carolina employees are covered by workers' compensation as long as the injury or illness is work-related. Workers who believes they have been denied a valid claim have resources to consult for information that may be useful in successfully processing their claims.

Source: insurancenewsnet.com, "NC legislation would end workplace injury benefits for immigrants here illegally", Craig Jarvis, July 4, 2014

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