Workers’ compensation covers workers who are not able to work because of a work-related illness or injury. However, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits are designed to protect workers’ jobs while away on unpaid leave tending to qualified family caretaking needs.
There are situations where workers’ compensation and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can overlap and an employee is qualified to receive both.
Qualifying for workers’ compensation
Workers’ compensation was designed to provide health care and income replacement for injured or ill workers. It does not, however, necessarily guarantee that the injured worker will not be terminated while on leave. Job protection is generally the function of the FMLA.
Qualifying under FMLA
FMLA gives eligible employees job protection for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. At the end of the absence from work, the employee will be returned to their original job or its equivalent.
Here are three ways to qualify for FMLA benefits:
- Childbirth, the adoption of a child and/or newborn childcare needs
- Serving as a caretaker of a spouse, parent, or child who has a serious health condition
- Having a serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing their regular job duties
One difference between FMLA and workers’ compensation is that FMLA doesn’t require the illness or injury to be work-related.
How to qualify for both workers’ compensation and FMLA benefits
Sometimes, situations arise where an employee would be qualified to receive both workers’ compensation and FMLA benefits. The overlap can allow an employee that is off work and receiving workers’ comp benefits to have their job-protected FMLA leave for 12-weeks.
Employers cannot force an employee to take unpaid time off under the FMLA if they are qualified for workers´ compensation benefits. When qualified for both, an employer has a legal obligation to use whichever law provides the greater benefit to the employee.
To ensure that workers’ rights are protected, it is recommended to seek legal counsel that is experienced in both workers’ compensation and FMLA benefits.