In April, an investigation by the News & Observer revealed that tens of thousands of North Carolina employers do not have workers' compensation insurance. However, the Industrial Commission, which is charged with making sure employers have the insurance, often finds out that a company is not in compliance only after an employee has been hurt.
The commission contracts with the North Carolina Rate Bureau to collect information about when an employer purchases, renews, or cancels an insurance policy. The commission has acknowledged that it uses the database to find out which insurer is responsible for paying a claim, but it does not monitor for cancellations.
In June, legislators approved a bill that would require the commission to get all the information about these policies from the bureau so that it can more readily detect which employers do not carry the required insurance and enforce compliance. On July 2, Governor Bev Perdue signed the bill into law.
Prior to her signing the bill into law, many were calling on Governor Perdue to veto the bill because a last-minute amendment was added stating that information provided by the Rate Bureau to the commission will no longer be public record.
Call for Transparency
A group of media representatives and open records advocates pushed for a veto of the new law. The group includes the North Carolina Press Association, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, and News & Observer publisher Orage Quarles III.
Open records laws allowed the News & Observer to obtain the information for its investigation, which put a spotlight on the problem of employers not carrying required workers' compensation insurance. If this information were to be kept private, not only would it prevent public scrutiny, but it would also prevent workers from finding out if their employers had the required insurance.
Representatives who supported the amendment said that it will protect private information, such as social security numbers. However, personal information such as this has long been redacted from public records.
North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers
If you have been hurt on the job or have been denied workers' compensation benefits, possibly because your employer did not carry the required insurance, the North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin may be able to help you. Call 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By Austin Baird The News and Observer