If you’re injured on the job or suffer a work-related illness, you could be eligible for both workers’ compensation and FMLA leave. However, these two programs serve different purposes, so you need to understand how they work both separately and together in order to protect your rights.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the rights of eligible employees to take 12 weeks of family and medical leave without losing their jobs or group health insurance. To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must be employed for a minimum of 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours during that time prior to taking leave.
FMLA applies to employees who need to take family or medical leave for:
- The birth or adoption of a child
- To care for an ill spouse, child, or parent
- Emergency leave due to the death of a close family member
- A qualifying circumstance tied to a spouse’s, child’s or parent’s active military duty
- A serious health condition that affects your ability to do your job
Once FMLA leave is granted, your employer is required to hold your job and provide healthcare benefits for the 12-week period.
Differences Between Workers’ Comp and FMLA
One major difference is that workers’ compensation programs are run by the state and the FMLA is a federal program. However, these two programs differ in other ways as well:
- A serious health condition does not have to be work-related in order for you to qualify for FMLA leave while workers’ comp requires that your injury or illness be work-related to qualify.
- FMLA leave is unpaid (unless your employer chooses to provide paid leave) while workers’ comp provides coverage for injury- or illness-related medical costs, a percentage of lost wages, and other benefits.
- FMLA leave is protected, meaning that after the 12 weeks of leave is up, you can return to your same (or an equivalent) job. This protection does not exist for workers’ compensation recipients unless you are a member of a union that provides job protection as part of a collective bargaining agreement. However, while your employer cannot terminate your employment because you were injured or in retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim, an employer can lay you off for another reason, eliminate your position, or assign you a job different from the one you had previously.
Taking Workers’ Comp and FMLA Leave at the Same Time
Employees who are eligible for both workers’ compensation and FMLA leave can receive both at the same time. However, employers are not allowed to force employees to take FMLA leave instead of filing for workers’ compensation benefits. Individuals will need to decide if receiving workers’ comp and FMLA benefits concurrently will be to their advantage, understanding that you may take 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a single year, either all at once or intermittently.
If workers’ compensation and FMLA are both applicable to your situation, you should consult with an Oklahoma workers’ comp attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of these two programs.
Are you trying to recover compensation for a work-related injury? If so, seek legal representation from the experienced attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. at once. Let our team build a strong case that clearly shows why you qualify for benefits for your injury. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll-free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.