NC Advocates for Justice Concerned About Proposed Changes to Industrial Commission Deputy Commissioner Terms

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The North Carolina Advocates for Justice are deeply concerned about Section 15.1.6(b) of the budget bill, which dramatically changes the employment terms of Deputy Commissioners of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Deputy Commissioners are the hearing officers which preside over cases involving workers injured on the job.

Currently these individuals are subject to the protections of the State Personnel Act, which allows them to hear and determine cases without concern or worry for political pressures. This is an essential part to maintaining a judicial body that is not only fair but has the appearance of fairness.

There are currently two bills before the North Carolina legislature which would dramatically alter protections and manner in which these Deputy Commissioners would gain and maintain employment.

The Senate budget provides for a four-year term for Deputy Commissioners, with a limit of two terms. The House budget provides for eight-year terms without term limitations. Both bills allow for the termination of every sitting Deputy Commissioner within the next eighteen months. Both bills remove Deputy Commissioners from the protections of the State Personnel Act.

Under both bills, Deputy Commissioners would need to seek reappointment. This inevitably, would raise the concern that a Deputy Commissioner’s prior decisions would be evaluated by the governing political party to determine if the Deputy Commissioner should be reappointed.

NC Advocates for Justice President Danny Glover states, "It is always a bad idea to politicize the justice system. Injured workers, employers and insurance companies all deserve to know that they will receive a full and fair hearing. Making the judges who hear Industrial Commission claims worry about their job security is a bad path for North Carolina."

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Dick Taylor
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