Under the Dome

Former Industrial Commission deputies sue over losing jobs

Two former deputies with the state Industrial Commission filed lawsuits Wednesday in state court claiming they lost their jobs after the legislature improperly deprived them of employment protections.

The deputy commissioners were caught up in a Republican administration strategy to expand the number of political appointees and reduce the number of state workers who could not be fired without just cause and procedural protections.

Bradley Houser and George R. Hall III allege a 2014 state law that altered the terms of their employment breaches their contracts or was an unconstitutional taking of property without due process. Neither was given an opportunity to appeal their reclassifications nor take advantage of other protections for employees who fall under the state’s personnel law, according to the lawsuits filed by Raleigh attorney Michael C. Byrne.

The six full commissioners have traditionally been political appointees; but the 20 deputy commissioners have been career employees with expertise in certain areas. Democrats and the state’s trial attorneys objected to removing protection for the deputies, saying that would politicize the agency.

The Industrial Commission hears worker compensation claims for employees injured on the job.