North Carolina telecommuters and freelance workers struggle to earn workers’ compensation benefits

As our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys noted in an earlier post to our North Carolina Workers Compensation Lawyers blog, there are a few hot-button issues coming to the fore in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation in 2011. Among them telecommuting is certainly creating challenges for Workers’ Compensation.

Forbes reports that telecommuting is a “core part” of America’s employment future, but also notes “there will always be many people who have to be in a place of work physically per the needs of their job role”. The question is: From a legal and procedural standpoint, how will employers and employees address work safety issues when the workplace in question is the employee’s own home?

And while we’re at the cyber-office, writer Preston Diamond notes, “employers and lawyers need the ability to navigate around social networking sites”. Status updates to Facebook, for example, can offer endless information about the activities of “injured” employees.

A third issue that can, to some degree, be linked to growing cyber-employment is the often misappropriated status of “independent contractor”. (More commonly referred to as freelance, consultants, or contract labor.) Independent contractors are attractive to employers because, frankly, they save money.

A contract employee is exempt from health care and other benefits, workers’ compensation and certain state and federal taxes. More contract labor means less liability and less cost. On the other hand, if a worker is “misclassified” (either intentionally or due to legitimate oversight), they may not realize that benefits are available to them if they are injured in a work-related accident.

Since 1991, the number of injury claims filed by workers has steadily fallen. It appears that this drop is flat-lining. Diamond believes the slow down can be attributed to inexperienced workers falling prey to injury and cut-backs in worker safety training efforts. Also, employers are paying out longer on temporary total disability claims; and the medical costs associated with those claims are skyrocketing.

Separately or together the financial implications of more injured workers staying out of work longer to seek more costly treatment options are a final trio of worries ticking like a time-bomb for workers’ compensation officials. On a more hopeful note, in our final blog of the series we discuss what OSHA is doing to protect workers.

For North Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or injury, Workers’ Compensation attorneys with Lee & Smith know recovery and adjustment can be a lifelong battle. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness in Winston-Salem or anywhere else in the state, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to discuss your rights.

Contact Information