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Temporary workers face challenges claiming workers' compensation

In a perfect world, workers' compensation benefits would be readily available to any worker who suffers an on-the-job injury. Some workers however, may have to fight for their benefits after a work accident. Temporary, blue-collar workers across the country, including in North Carolina, often fall into that category.

Due to high unemployment rates many workers who cannot find full-time employment turn to temp agencies.  Many of them end up performing dangerous jobs, which may not be assigned to permanent employees because of the employer's risk of workers' compensation claims.  Temporary workers also tend to receive less on-the-job training because employers want them there to work, not to learn a trade at the employer's expense.

Further complicating matters, some employers may not provide the proper equipment to temporary employees. In 2010, a workplace accident in North Carolina led to the death of a temporary worker when he was run over by a trash compactor. The temporary worker had not been provided steel-toe boots despite the landfill’s slippery conditions. The company claimed, because he was not an employee, they were not required to provide him with the equipment. 

The high number of reported injuries involving temp workers may be less than the actual number of injuries sustained. The nature of the temp industry might be to blame. For example, some agencies require temporary workers to sign day-to-day contracts.  At the end of the workday, the temp may be asked to sign a form indicating that the working conditions were safe. That form could be needed before the temp is allowed to return to work there the following day. In situations where temps remain with the same agency over a period of time, the temps are often hesitant to report a workplace injury. If they do, the agency may see them as high risk and stop sending them out to new assignments.

With all of the potential pitfalls for temporary workers who need to claim workers’ compensation benefits, it may be advisable for injured workers to contact an attorney who understands the laws in North Carolina. Whether the party responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits is the temp agency or the employer, receiving the benefits is crucial to your rehabilitation and well-being.

Source: Pacific-Standard, “Temporary Work, Lasting Harm,” Michael Grabell, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, Feb. 3, 2014

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