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Commission that has say in workers' compensation faces changes

Recently, the Industrial Commission in North Carolina, which is charged with the oversight of vital aspects of the state's compensation programs, has been faced with critical challenges. The first was the appointment of an individual who purportedly has a record of being anti-workers' rights, and the second is the change in how the deputy commissioners are selected. The commission has the responsibility of holding hearings on workers' compensation claims, as well as other duties, and many believe that the changes could have a negative impact on how it functions.

New budget proposals issued by both houses of the state legislature call for the current deputy commissioners to be relieved of their positions over the next year and a half. Previously, those who held the positions were experienced in labor laws and were considered to take workers' rights into consideration. Now, if individuals are politically appointed and subjected to reviews at designated times, each deputy commissioner may become more politically focused.

Each house has presented different appointment schedules, with one proposing term limits and the other not. The problem with the new system is that deputy commissioners make rulings on workers' comp cases involving state employees. The law had previously provided protection to these officials from retaliation. Now, every decision could be seen as being politically motivated. As such, the governor could terminate any deputy who is believed guilty of insubordination.

Along with the changes in how deputy commissioners serve, there were recent changes made to the length of time a worker may receive benefits, regardless of how severely the worker may have been injured. In spite of the proposed changes, the North Carolina workers' compensation program is still intact and is ready to assist those who have suffered a work-related injury or illness. There are resources available to provide information and assistance to those who may require help in filing and pursuing a claim for necessary benefits.

Source:, "Neutralizing the industrial commission", Michael Papich, July 8, 2014

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