A Mississippi advocacy group is educating workers about their rights when they're injured on the job. But as MPB's Desare Frazier reports, they say that's just half the battle.
Catherine Bacon says she was fired from a catfish company in 2013, after she had surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. She was able to receive worker's compensation benefits. A year later Bacon says with the help of the United Food Commercial Workers Union she returned to work. Now the shop steward educates people about workers' compensation benefits.
"Right now I've got a few co-workers, members that I'm trying to convince them. They don't want to do it. They're saying they're afraid that the company is going to retaliate against them," said Bacon.
Attorney Jaribu Hill heads the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights. She says employers in the state can fire injured workers. It's one of several issues the human rights group and the National Employment Law Project will discuss tomorrow at an Injured Workers' Summit in Greenville. Also, Hill says the state's compensation benefits are the lowest in the nation. According to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission, permanently injured workers receive two-thirds of their pay for 8 1/2 years. The weekly wage is capped. In 2016 it was $468 per week. Jaribu Hill.
"And it thrusts many, many families deep into poverty. Perhaps the primary breadwinner was the person that was injured and their wages are cut," said Hill.
Companies with five or more employees are required to pay into the workers' compensation program. Democratic State Senator Derrick Simmons of Greenville, has introduced bills to extend benefits from 8 1/2 to 10 years. They haven't made it out of committees. Simmons says he'll introduce the bill again. We spoke with a number of Republican legislators who didn't want to hypothetically comment on a bill they haven't seen yet.
The Injured Worker's Summit is at the Fourth Circuit Drug Court, 121 South Harvey Street in Greenville, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.