The article below was published in the Raleigh News and Observier on Novemebr 9, 2008 and although it mostly deals with the issue of underage workers, there are a number of issues that relate to workers' compensation as well.
The article in the N&O discusses a situaton where children under 18 were working in the plant. Federal and state laws dictate that due to the hazardous nature of the job, people under the age of 18 are not to work on poultry processing lines. In North Carolina, this does not prevent an underage worker from seeking workers' compensation benefits as the NC Workers' Compensation Act applies to minors, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed.
The NC Workers' Compensation Act also applies to undocumented workers. For the most part, undocumented workers are entitled to the same benefits as any other injured worker; however, there are some exceptions. For example, in terms of providing vocational rehabilitation, an undocumented worker is entitled to received benefits up to the point where he would find suitable employment, but for his undocumented status. As with any legal matter it is advisable to at least consult with an attorney to discuss and be informed about your rights, this is especially true here.
REPETITIVE MOTION INJURIES
The article also discusses that the line Ms. Gayton worked on had workers standing "shoulder to shoulder, making as many as 20,000 cuts a shift." The article also mentioned how Ms. Gayton's hands would burn for hours and that her fingers still hurt even weeks after losing her job.
When a worker is hurt due to repetitive motion at the job, it is usually classified as an "Occupational Disease". Occupational Diseases are specific conditions which are listed in the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act. These conditions include asbestosis, silicosis, synovitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, and chemical exposure.
There is also a "catch all" provision which defines an "occupational disease" as any disease where your job exposed you to a greater risk of contracting the disease than members of the public generally and that your exposure significantly contributed or was a significant causal factor in the disease’s development. A common "occupational disease" that is included under this provision is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Again, it is important to at least consult with an attorney if you think you have a work related injury. You can also contact the Workers’ Compensation Information Specialists Section of the N.C. Industrial Commission. Dial toll free (800) 688-8349 or call (919) 807-2501 Monday-Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., e-mail InfoSpec@ic.nc.gov, or write the:
Workers’ Compensation Information Specialists Section
N.C. Industrial Commission
4333 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4333