If you are injured or become ill at work, you could be entitled to both FMLA coverage and workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer is not required to make both programs available simultaneously. Instead, they should let you choose which program provides you with the most appropriate rights and benefits. Every injured employee will have a unique set of circumstances, medical care, and recovery times. This article will explain how FMLA and workers’ compensation work together, your rights as an injured worker, and how you can decide which option best fits your specific needs.
A workers’ compensation attorney from KJT Law Group can help you understand your choices and how they will affect your medical coverage and financial compensation.
What You Need to Know About the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Code of Federal Regulations § 825, FMLA, gives employees the ability to take a leave of absence to deal with serious healthcare issues. As an injured worker, you can take up to 12 weeks of:
- Unpaid leave without risking your employment status
- Accrued paid time off (PTO) without risking your employment status
While on FMLA, your employer cannot cancel your health insurance, but you must also continue to make any financial contributions you would have made before you were injured. You are also entitled to return to your same job at the end of your leave with the same working conditions, salary, and benefits.
In addition to these rights, you also have certain responsibilities. You must notify your employer in advance of taking FMLA leave. You must also clarify the reason for your leave and the amount of time you expect to be away from work. Failure to do so could result in delayed leave. If you work with a workers’ compensation lawyer in your area, they will explain your rights and obligations.
Qualifying for FMLA Benefits
While FMLA leave is your right, you must meet certain criteria to qualify. To use FMLA leave, the company you work for must be covered.
You qualify for FMLA benefits if:
- You worked at a location with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius (calculated based on actual routes).
- You have been an employee for a minimum of one year (all of your work time must be counted).
- You worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the year immediately preceding your request for leave.
You must meet each of these criteria. If they are and you have been or are being denied FMLA leave, consider consulting a lawyer. They can help you document your eligibility, fight for the leave you deserve, or appeal your denial.
What You Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation
Worker’s comp is designed to meet the needs of employees who suffer on-the-job injuries (without regard to who is at fault) or work-related illnesses. You can recover the wages you lose for the time you cannot work due to your injuries. In general, you will receive two-thirds of your average weekly salary within 14 days of notifying your employer of your condition, per the California Department of Human Resources.
You will also receive all reasonable and required medical care at no cost to you. This coverage starts immediately and includes all reasonable care and expenses related to your current condition. If you were injured or became ill at work, you could get workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer is required to carry coverage in accordance with California law.
You Can Look Up Whether Your Employer Has Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Every employer in California must offer workers’ compensation coverage. However, if you’re unsure whether your employer is in compliance, you can search through the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRBC). To make a search, you’ll have to enter the coverage date, your employer’s name, and other details.
Qualifying for Workers’ Compensation Medical and Financial Benefits
Applying for and qualifying for workers’ comp benefits can be more complicated than you might think. In general, to qualify:
- You must be an employee (in certain cases, independent contractors may qualify).
- You must have been hurt or become ill while doing your job, even if you were away from your usual worksite.
- Your employer has workers’ compensation insurance.
Your employer is entitled to notice of your injury and intent to seek workers’ comp benefits. You must notify them and file your claim in a timely manner. Failing to meet the filing and notification deadlines could result in a denial of your application.
What to Expect When FMLA and Workers’ Compensation Benefits Overlap
In some cases, you can reap important benefits of workers’ compensation and FMLA at the same time. It can be complicated, and on your own, you might even have a hard time understanding which program you can benefit from. In general, the best way to understand how they work together is to consider FMLA unpaid leave and to consider workers’ compensation paid benefits.
Sometimes, your employer might run these two programs together, which could cause you to deplete your unpaid leave sooner than you might like. You are entitled to notification from your employer when both programs overlap or when they choose one program over the other for you.
A good way to understand your rights and your employer’s obligations is to work with a lawyer in your area.
Call for Your Free Consultation Today
If you or a loved one was injured at work, you could require prolonged leave to cope with your condition. You might also need income to support yourself while you cannot work. We can help you understand your rights and your employer’s responsibilities.