Workers, Business Owners, and Others Sound Off on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Reforms

June 7, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Last Wednesday, the NC house passed sweeping and massive reforms to North Carolina workers’ compensation law. The overhaul, led by Republican Representative Dale Folwell, stirred passionate emotions on both sides of the debate. This blog post will examine some of the reader comments in the June 6th issue of the Winston-Salem Journal to give you a sense of the flavor of the debate going on.

The Journal quoted Fletcher Steele, the President of Pine Hall Brick Company — a business owner. He shared very enthusiastic comments about the legislation: “North Carolina workers’ compensation law should be focused on taking care of injured workers and helping them return to work when they are able. Thanks to Rep. Folwell’s leadership, our state may soon have a modern, effective workers’ compensation system that works for both employers and employees, and that is also good for jobs.”

The responses to his editorial reveal a complex debate.

For instance, one commenter who claimed to be a “CEO in a field that… sees more than its fair share of WC claims” said “it’s not surprising Mr. Steele would say WC insurance has contributed to slow job growth. From a macro view, I feel that the state’s cutting of education money will do far more harm to NC’s future job prospects than… this legislation will be able to overcome. The 2009 HS grad rate was only 70%. Hate to see what rates will be in the future. No education equals no jobs.”

Another anonymous commenter, who went by the handle “AJV,” laced into Mr. Steele’s suggestion, even suggesting that the NC Chamber of Commerce “ghost wrote” the editorial. AJV wrote: “so let’s see: he is CEO of a brick company. Potentially a very hazardous work environment… those pesky worker bees having bricks fall on them… breathing in caustic dusts, et cetera. Let’s say that a worker is paralyzed when a pallet of bricks falls on him. What’s a CEO to do? Cut profits. And then what? They expect his company or insurance carrier to take care of that unfortunate worker whose [labor has helped the company profit]?… They busily craft their solution: Limit the worker to no more than 500 weeks of compensation and then dump them for the tax payers to directly support. Sweet! Win! Win! Win! (that is the company, chamber and insurer). “

As these comments clearly illustrate, the debate is passionate and not necessarily civil. Such is the nature of modern politics, perhaps.

Another commenter, who wrote under the handle “native heal” responded to AJVs point: “I have known Fletcher Steele for many years and have had a good business relationship with him for many years as well. He is a good man in an imperfect work situation, as are many others who’ve run large corporations. I am also quite certain that Mr. Steele has a vast more amount of knowledge about workers’ compensation issues than you or I will ever have. I [would rather] light a candle to illuminate the shadows rather than stand in the shadow and throw rocks.”

The rancorous debate notwithstanding, you and your family likely have significant and serious questions about how these laws might affect your potential benefits. An experienced, reputable North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can answer those questions and help you feel relaxed, prepared, and in control to meet the challenges ahead.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Senate passes workers compensation reform bill

Pine Hall Brick Company