Gov. Bev Perdue wants fast action on workers' compensation

mlocke@newsobserver.comApril 4, 2012 

— Gov. Bev Perdue said Tuesday that she is demanding that swift action be taken to fix the problem of tens of thousands of employers going without workers’ compensation insurance.

Perdue, who has been publicly silent since The News & Observer reported the problem Sunday, said she expects Industrial Commission Chairwoman Pamela Young to do whatever needs to be done to crack down on employers breaking the law by skimping on workers’ compensation.

“I read with the same pain that you did what might be happening to our workers and what has happened to our workers,” Perdue said. “I’ve sent word, I want it fixed, and I want it fixed very quickly.”

On Monday, Young, who has declined repeated interviews about the problem, issued a statement saying the Industrial Commission would launch a review of its policies and procedures dealing with uninsured employers.

An N&O investigation revealed that 30,000 or more businesses are forgoing workers’ comp insurance, a requirement for businesses with more than three employees.

The commission, which is charged with ensuring that businesses prove their coverage and with ordering businesses to pay up when a worker is hurt, has been lax about the problem. The commission does nothing proactively to enforce compliance. And, when employers are caught without insurance and a worker comes to the commission for help, the agency is slow to use its power to collect fines and press for criminal charges.

Businesses owners can be charged with a Class H felony for failing to carry workers’ compensation. And, they can be fined as much as $100 a day for each day they go without the coverage.

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