The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act is intended to provide fair compensation to employees hurt on the job.
It also protects employers from unjust, fraudulent injury claims and the costs of extended litigation.
The key is to get the employee back on the job and earning a living.
Indeed, that is one reason the reimbursement rate is only 2/3rds the average weekly wage. Even though there aren’t taxes on that, 2/3rds is still a less than you’d normally earn.
That also means if the employee can work and has the opportunity to work (suitable employment), he or she generally cannot refuse to work without legal justification.
“Just about everything associated with the NC Comp Laws encourages, if not demands, the employee return to work. That may mean taking a job you don’t necessarily love.”
– Kevin Jones
That can be more complicated than it may seem.
What you think is suitable employment vs. what our employer thinks is appropriate can be vastly different.Rejection of a Job Offer
An employee injured employee cannot refuse a job procured (found, offered placement) if that employment is “suitable” to his or her capacity.
Put simply, if your employer offers you a replacement job or finds some other position suitable to your skills and you refuse to take that job, Comp benefits end.
You will not be entitled to any form of compensation during the period you refuse to work.
That is true unless the Industrial Commission determines the refusal to work was legally appropriate and justified.Who Bears the Burden of Proof?
The employer has the Burden of Proof to show the employee refused employment that was otherwise suitable.
Under N.C.G.S. 97-32, the first inquiry involves whether employee’s job involuntary or voluntarily terminated.Voluntary Termination
In the event the employment termination was voluntary, meaning the employee chose not to work, the employer still must prove the employee was not legally justified refusing “suitable employment.”
If the employer meets its Burden of Proof, showing the employee refused suitable employment without a good reason or justification, benefits under the Work Comp Act may be denied.Involuntary Termination
If the “departure” from employment is deemed involuntary, additional inquiry must be made as to whether there has been a “constructive refusal” to accept a suitable job/work.
The Deputy Commissioner and/or Full Commission (it depends upon the stage of the claim under the Act) must determine whether:
- The workplace injury is eligible for compensation; and
- A Rehabilitative Job or “Light Duty Work” was offered to the employee; and,
- Termination for the Light Duty Job due to misconduct or due the fault of the employee
That may be deemed a “constructive refusal” to accept suitable employment. But that is not necessarily automatic.
The employer still bears the burden of showing the loss of the job is due to a wrongful act of the employee.
If the loss of the job is due to the inability to do the job, related to the disability caused by the original workplace injury, Workmans Compensation benefits cannot be denied.
In issues where it is determined there was an involuntarily termination, the employer is required to prove termination was due to fault or misconduct.
That misconduct or fault cannot be related to the injury for which compensation is due to the accident. It also must be shown that a non-injured or nondisabled employee would have normally also been terminated.Kevin Jones – NC Worker Compensation Attorney
The Comp Laws in North Carolina can be incredibly complicated, if not confusing.
It’s OK if you don’t fully understand your legal options or even some of the terms associated with the Workers’ Compensation Act.
We’re here to help.
Kevin Jones is a Board Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law in North Carolina. Legal consultations for accident and injury cases are free of charge.
Everything you tell us is completely confidential. It costs nothing to call our law office, sit down and talk, or even ask basic questions about how to file a claim.
You may reach Kevin Jones by email Kevin@DodgeJones.com or by calling 252-639-1787