Worker’s compensation laws vary from state to state, and there are also federal laws that protect federal employees as well as workers in some industries that cross state lines. In North Carolina, the state Workers’ Compensation Act protects the rights of workers who become injured while on the job. In general, employees within the jurisdiction of state workers’ compensation laws who experience workplace accidents, injuries or occupational diseases can receive leave, monetary compensation and medical benefits.
However, there are many complexities within the law that often make employees unaware of their rights. For example, certain law enforcement officers and public school employees have rights to salary continuation. Police officers, specifically, are often subject to the Criminal Justice Training and Standard Act which provides them with two years of full salary compensation if they become incapacitated by an accidental injury or occupational disease that arose in the line of duty. A recent news report examined whether some North Carolina officers may be abusing this benefit.
According to this news report, the state’s Department of Corrections paid $8 million last year to 381 current and former employees who suffered on-the-job injuries. The report notes that only 46 of those employees were injured by offenders they were policing; most of the other law enforcement officers suffered things like slips, falls and back injuries.
The report suggests that those employees who were not injured at the hands of an inmate may be abusing the system. However, according to the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook, salary continuation is available for certain law enforcement officers who lose the ability to work as “the result of an injury by accident or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of their official duties.”
Contrarily, public school employees are only subject to salary continuation if they are injured in an episode of violence. Under the law that is currently written, the key question of whether an eligible law enforcement officer qualifies for salary continuation is not who may be at fault for the injury; it is, did the injury happen during duty?
According to the report, some state legislators think that the law should be revised to limit who may be eligible for salary continuation.
The law is likely quite confusing for some. For example, city and county law enforcement officers are eligible only for workers’ compensation but not salary continuation.
Source: WECT-6, “Injury leave abuse by state law enforcement officers?” Ann McAdams, Jan, 30, 2012
Source: North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook, “Salary Continuation Plans,” Jan. 2010