By Kevin Bunn
Workers’ compensation in North Carolina provides medical treatment and wage replacement payments for employees who become injured in an on-the-job accident or develop a job-related disease or disorder. The goal of the workers’ compensation system is to return injured employees back to work as quickly as possible. It’s an important program, especially for small nonprofits. Here are five important reasons why nonprofit organizations need workers’ comp in North Carolina:
- It prevents you from being sued by your employees and officers for injuries arising out of workplace negligence. Even office workers get hurt – often from falls and automobile accidents. Ordinarily, employers are responsible for the on-the-job negligence of their workers and officers. This includes exposure to the full range of personal injury damages (including pain and suffering), but not if the person who gets injured is a co-employee or officer covered by workers’ compensation. When an employee that is covered by workers’ compensation is injured because of the inattentiveness of a co-worker or corporate officer, the injured worker is prevented from suing the co-worker or the nonprofit by the “exclusive remedy” provision of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. The injured worker only has a workers’ compensation claim, with medical and wage replacement benefits.
- It provides quick benefits when nothing else will. Workers’ compensation wage replacement payments begin after a seven-day waiting period. And, employees can use sick leave to cover this seven days. Compare this to the 90- to 180-day waiting period for many private disability plans and the typical one- to three-year waiting period for Social Security disability and you can see the advantages of workers’ compensation. Also, a good workers’ compensation insurance adjuster is skilled at directing medical treatment towards a quick recovery, from the very first doctor visit.
- Workers’ compensation is designed to return the employee to work as soon as possible with the employer. Special nurse case managers are assigned to monitor medical treatment to ensure it is headed in the right direction. The employer where the injury occurred has the right to bring the worker back in any modified employment that fits the worker’s restrictions. After you have invested thousands of dollars and many hours in training your employees, you want a program that is designed top-to-bottom to get your worker back on the job as soon as possible.
- It’s good for your employees. The last thing an injured worker needs to worry about is how they are going to make their car payment while they are recovering. For very serious injuries, workers’ compensation can provide wage replacement benefits for almost ten years, and possibly even beyond, as well as life-long medical treatment. Would your employee’s standard health coverage terminate if they are unable to return to work?
- It’s the law. Any company with three or more employees must have workers’ compensation. Nonprofit officers are counted as employees for the purpose of determining if the three-person threshold is met. It is a mandatory program for most employers and cannot be waived, even with the employee’s consent. Nonprofits that should have workers’ compensation but do not can be subject to penalties of up to $100 per day and 100% of any workers’ compensation benefits owed. In addition, officers and board members who fail to obtain coverage when it is required can be charged with a Class H felony and be personally liable for paying for injured workers’ medical treatment and wage replacement benefits.
Kevin Bunn is a Board-Certified Expert in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. He is on the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and is a past chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section. He was also a charter employee of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.