The Debate over North Carolina Workers’ Compensation and Domestic Partner Benefits Gets Heavy and Heated in Mecklenburg County

December 31, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

On December 15, Mecklenburg County passed a measure conferring domestic partner benefits to same sex couples in the area. While the implications of this measure’s passage on North Carolina workers’ compensation issues will no doubt be indirect, this shift in the state’s political winds could portend future modifications to benefits packages and insurance coverage for workers.

According to a news report, the measure passed by a vote of 6-3. (The debate among the voting commissioners was overtly hostile. One commissioner insulted another’s deceased son, prompting a vicious off-microphone exchange.) Mecklenburg County is now the seventh county in the state to provide benefits to same sex couples who work for the government. Others include Greensborough, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

What are the policy implications of this benefits extension for North Carolina workers’ compensation law? At this point in time, it’s difficult to make any firm conclusions. Both the law and cultural mores regarding same-sex marriage in North Carolina are fast evolving.

Advocates of domestic partnership argue that family members of injured workers often get short shrift when it comes to collecting on injury policies. If, for instance, a same-sex couple has been together for 30 years and the bread-winner gets hurt at work and ultimately dies from his injury, why should his partner be denied compensation from his employer and/or the state government?

More Web Resources:

Mecklenburg County

City to consider domestic partner benefits


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