Some Frustrated with Generous North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Packages for Public Employees

June 30, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

A June 14th story in the North Carolina News & Observer voices discontent with the money that North Carolina spends on workers’ compensation and other benefits for state employees. The article discusses the workers’ comp case of a NC Highway Patrol Captain named Mark Nichols, who had to take a three-month leave due to serious illness and surgeries. Thanks to North Carolina’s generous compensation laws, Capt. Nichols did not even have to dig into vacation time or sick leave that he had accrued over the course of two and a half decades on the force.

The article argues that generous North Carolina workers’ compensation packages for public employees create inequalities in the system. For instance, the massive investment in benefits has made it difficult for the state to increase real wages for employees. In addition, North Carolina’s current budget crisis (including a deficit of $4.5 billion) has put more pressure on legislators to explore ways of cutting excessive benefits.

All told, the state supports over 215,000 employees as well as thousands of teachers/workers in the University of North Carolina system. NC annually pays out $714 million to these beneficiaries. The North Carolina controller’s office does not maintain an accurate database over how specifically these compensation benefits get distributed, however. Per state laws, supervisors can accumulate uncapped vacation and sick leave benefits; and the state must pay overtime benefits for employees who do not “cash in” compensation time within a year.

Given the paucity of reliable budget figures and statistics on how workers’ compensation moneys and other benefits get distributed to North Carolina employees, it is difficult to perform back of the envelope cost benefit evaluations of solutions to this issue.

Piled-up Perks Carry Hidden Costs, North Carolina News & Observer, June 14, 2009

Perks Take Heavy Toll on Finances, Charlotte Observer, June 14, 2009

More Web Resources:

University of North Carolina

North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Laws


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