Understanding Workers’ Compensation and FMLA
When an employee is hurt on the job and is forced to miss time from work to recover, they may be nervous about how to make ends meet and whether their job will be waiting for them when they are ready to return. The good news is that the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania have programs in place – FMLA and workers’ compensation benefits – that will help injured employees with medical bills and lost wages and protect their job.
Some employers may try and force or coerce employees to take FMLA rather than file a workers’ compensation claim, or they may claim the employee needs to enroll in both programs. The truth is, FMLA may not be required for a workplace injury and therefore can be saved for use another time.
How do you know if you should take FMLA along with your workers’ compensation benefits? Let’s define what FMLA is, how it is different from workers’ compensation and where the two programs may overlap.
What is FMLA?
FMLA, or the Family Medical Leave Act, is a federal program created in 1993. FMLA is unpaid leave, which means that, although an employee’s job is legally protected and must be available upon the employee’s return to work, they will not receive any form of compensation.
Employees may use available vacation or sick time during FMLA leave; however, when it runs out, so does the paycheck. Employees are only eligible for FMLA after working for one full year at their place of employment. Further, FMLA is only offered at companies with more than 50 employees or when the organization is a government agency. FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their job for several reasons including:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Taking care of a sick family member
- Recovering from a serious illness or injury
The last reason – recovering from a serious illness or injury – may also make the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if the injury or illness occurred on the job.
If you were injured at work and are confused about whether you should apply for FMLA, workers’ comp, or both, you should consult with a workers’ compensation attorney to understand your rights as an injured worker.
How is FMLA Different from Workers’ Comp?
While there are some similarities between the two programs, they are very different. First, FMLA is a federal program, while, on the other hand, workers’ compensation is a state program.
Other differences between the two programs include:
- Paid vs. Unpaid Time Off: With FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. With workers’ compensation, eligible employees typically receive two-thirds of their gross wages, coverage for medical bills, and other related benefits.
- Protected vs. Unprotected Job Status: One of the biggest differences between the two programs is job protection. With FMLA, the employee’s company is legally required to protect their job and have it available for them to return to when they are ready. Workers’ compensation offers no such protection. Employers cannot terminate a position because of a work-related injury; however, they can terminate the position for other reasons, which often stem an injury suffered on the job.
- Eligible vs. Non-Eligible Illnesses or Injuries: With FMLA, the injured or sick worker may not have been injured on the job. FMLA protection also allows for time off for an employee to take care of a sick family member. Conversely, workers’ comp only applies when an injury happens to the employee while at work. Workers’ comp does not apply to injured family members.
If you were injured on the job, how do you know if you should apply for benefits under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law or under the Family Medical Leave Act? In some cases, employees should only apply for one program, and in other cases, both programs.
How Workers’ Compensation and FMLA Overlap
If you were injured at work, there are some cases where FMLA and workers’ comp benefits can run concurrently. Before deciding which path to take, be sure to consult with a workers’ comp law firm. Some employers may attempt to coerce you into skipping workers’ comp and using up your sick time to avoid paying out benefits.
Both FMLA and workers’ comp programs require the employer to take some sort of action. In other words, an employer cannot retroactively tell you they are using FMLA without written prior notice. In addition, when you notify your employer of a workplace injury, they are required to tell their insurance company of the injury with an injury report.
There are different reasons someone would want to use both FMLA and workers’ comp, especially if they are worried about job security. If you were hurt at work and are worried about your job being there for you when you are released to return to work, it may make sense to use both FMLA and workers’ comp benefits. Confident your job will be waiting for you? Then, you may only want to apply for workers’ comp benefits.
An experienced Lancaster workers’ comp law firm can help you decide the best path to take, not only to ensure that you receive the compensation benefits you are entitled to under workers’ compensation law but also have the peace of mind your job will be ready for you when you return. Before talking to your employer’s insurance company, schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Workers’ Comp Attorneys in Lancaster, Pa.
Georgelis Injury Law Firm has been representing employees with work-related injuries for decades and can help you decide whether to take FMLA along with workers’ compensation benefits. Some employers may put roadblocks in place or make it difficult to file a workers’ comp claim. You deserve legal representation and someone on your side who will fight for your rights.
All we do at Georgelis Injury Law firm is workers’ compensation claims and personal injury cases. Our intense focus in this field makes us uniquely qualified to handle your case. With more than 100 years of combined litigation experience, our team of attorneys and paralegals is ready to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
We are available 24/7 and will evaluate your case free of charge. If you were injured on the job, connect with us today either online or by calling 1-800-HURT-NOW.