Workers' Compensation and FMLA
In the world of work, accidents can happen. This is where workers' compensation and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) come in. These federal law protections help workers when they get hurt on the job.
Workers' compensation helps injured workers by covering their medical treatment. It also helps by providing disability benefits if they cannot work for a while. On the other hand, the FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This leave enables workers to care for themselves or a family member with a serious health issue.
These laws protect employees' rights and ability to make a living, even when life throws a curveball. Note that these laws can be complicated. Their application can vary based on state law. So, if you find yourself in this situation, seeking legal advice is a good idea.
This article describes the differences between FMLA and workers' compensation.
The Difference Between FMLA and Workers' Compensation
There are essential differences between FMLA and workers' compensation. The FMLA entitles eligible employees to job-protected leave for qualifying reasons. FMLA allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks in 12 months.
FMLA protects the employee's job during the leave period. At the end of the leave, an employer must return the employee to their original job or equivalent. An employee may go on leave to deal with a severe health condition.
Unlike workers' compensation, the condition's cause is irrelevant, nor does it need to be work-related. Both FMLA leave and workers' comp may run concurrently. The employer must inform the employee in writing that the leave is FMLA.
Qualifying Reasons for FMLA
FMLA applies to a covered employer and eligible employees. Employees can take FMLA leave for several reasons. An example is if you have a severe health condition that makes it impossible for you to perform your job. Another is if you need to care for a sick family member or you have a child. Unpaid FMLA leave must be granted to an eligible employee for any of the following reasons:
- For the birth of a child and to care for that newborn child
- For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly-placed child
- To care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
- For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job
Understanding Workers' Compensation
Workers' compensation is for workers who are injured on the job. It pays for medical expenses. Sometimes, it gives you a portion of your average weekly wage if you cannot work because of the injury. However, there are specific rules about workers' comp. For example, the injury must be job-related. You must follow the prescribed medical care. If the injury causes a permanent disability or an impairment, you may qualify for additional benefits.
Sometimes, your employer might offer you light-duty work as part of your recovery. You can return to work, but your tasks are adjusted to fit your medical condition.
Workers' compensation provides for healthcare and income replacement. It does not necessarily provide for job protection. Some state workers' compensation provisions do provide for job protection. Workers' compensation laws generally indicate that employees relinquish their right to sue their employers for work-related injuries in return for such benefits.
Can My Employer Force Me To Take FMLA for a Work-Related Injury?
The practice of employers requiring employees to use FMLA to take time off from work if they are injured on the job is technically legal. Under the federal FMLA, an employer can count an employee's time out on workers' compensation as family and medical leave if the employee is out for a reason that meets the FMLA requirements.
However, before an employer decides to apply such a rule, they must carefully check all the facts. They have to do their due diligence. This way, they can make sure they are not unintentionally causing the employee to use up all of their benefits. They have a right to these benefits under workers' compensation laws.
An employer can sometimes ask employees to use FMLA leave for work-related injuries. This depends on whether the employer is covered under FMLA. It also depends on whether the employee's injury qualifies as a serious health condition under FMLA.
Overlap of FMLA and Workers' Comp
The FMLA and workers' compensation provisions can overlap. An employee may suffer a workplace injury or illness that is also a "serious health condition" under the FMLA. If this happens, the laws' provisions can run concurrently. In other words, an employee may be off work receiving workers' compensation benefits. The time off is counted against the employee's applicable 12-week entitlement to job-protected FMLA leave.
When the FMLA and workers' compensation laws apply, employers must provide leave under whichever law provides greater rights and benefits to employees. Therefore, employers cannot require a worker to take time off under FMLA instead of workers' compensation if the person's injury makes them eligible for the benefits of workers' compensation.
The tricky part is that sometimes FMLA and workers' compensation can overlap. For example, if you are injured at work and cannot work for several weeks, you might be eligible for workers' compensation benefits and FMLA leave simultaneously. These situations can be complex, and getting legal advice is recommended to understand your rights and responsibilities fully.
What Are Your FMLA Rights Concerning Workers' Comp? A Lawyer Can Help
If you are an injured employee, FMLA provides certain rights in conjunction with workers' comp. First, your job is protected while you are on FMLA leave, which means you must be restored to your original job or an equivalent job when you return. Second, if you can return to work but with certain limitations, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This could include modifications to your workplace or adjustments in your duties.
Workplace injuries can result in time off work, medical bills, and other complications. However, your employer must carry workers' compensation insurance for such events. Knowing whether the FMLA applies to the leave you may request can also be confusing. Remember, your health is crucial. Therefore, it is essential to understand these laws, from the Department of Labor's regulations to your state's specific laws.
A workers' compensation attorney can help. They can help review your workers' comp claim and obtain the workers' compensation leave you deserve. They can also advise you on workers' comp benefits. If you have suffered an injury on the job and need skilled legal assistance with a potential workers' compensation claim, you should speak with a workers' comp attorney near you.
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