Both the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and workers’ compensation benefits are designed to protect workers who are injured or ill. While these benefits serve similar goals, they also differ in many ways. The FMLA is a federal law that applies to all American citizens, while workers’ compensation laws, requirements, and benefits can look very different depending on your state.
State-level worker’s compensation programs and federal FMLA laws may cover an employee who suffers from a serious health condition. This article will cover the need-to-know information on both types of benefits, how to know if you’re eligible for one or both, and whether or not you should access both FMLA and workers’ compensation benefits simultaneously.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA is a federal law that entitles workers of covered employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, while maintaining the same group health insurance coverage you’re entitled to while working.
To meet the eligibility requirements and take leave under the FMLA, you must:
- Work for a covered employer
- Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (consecutively or non-consecutively)
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the 12 months prior to taking your leave
- Work at a location where 50 or more employees work
If you qualify, you’re entitled to:
1) Take leave for 12 workweeks over a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- The birth of a child
- Newborn care within one year of birth
- The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and newly placed child care within one year of placement
- The care of a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that impedes the ability to perform the essential functions of the job
- Any qualifying exigency resulting from the fact that a spouse, son or daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”; OR
2) Take leave for 26 workweeks during a 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember suffering from a serious injury or illness, if the servicemember is your spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
Workers’ compensation is a state-level insurance program designed to ensure that workers suffering from work-related injuries or occupational diseases, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, hearing loss, or arthritis are able to receive the medical and financial compensation they need, including treatment for their injury or health condition and partial salary, in addition to time away from work.
Your entitlement to compensation will depend significantly on relevant laws, which can vary greatly from state to state. Being aware of the requirements for both your company and your state will assist you in getting the compensation you deserve. In order to qualify, you must:
- Be a covered employee
- Have a work-related occupational disease or injury
- Report your injury or occupational disease in a timely manner, usually within 90 days, but there are exceptions and a longer time for occupational diseases
- Attend required exams and appointments
While these guidelines are usually included in every state’s requirements, including Oregon, definitions can vary. For example, in Oregon, the definition of an “employee” may not cover independent contractors. These types of small differences highlight why it’s valuable to have a sufficient understanding of your individual state’s requirements in advice so that you know what to do when it matters.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you’ve been injured on the job or developed a serious health condition related to your work, you may be entitled to a variety of workers’ comp benefits provided by your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance.
With the help of a workers’ compensation attorney, a judge may require your employer’s insurance to cover a number of benefits that you’ve been denied. These may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Permanent disability compensation
Accessing Both FMLA & Workers’ Comp Benefits
In some cases, you may be eligible to receive both types of benefits concurrently. This occurs when your work-related injury or illness meets the FMLA-eligibility criteria of a “serious health condition.” That means that in order to qualify for both types of benefits simultaneously, you must be suffering from a serious health condition that interferes with your ability to perform the essential functions of your job. It’s important to note that your employer cannot require you to take FMLA leave in place of workers’ compensation leave.
If you’re eligible to take time away from work under both the FMLA and your state’s workers’ compensation laws, these programs can run concurrently. However, this is not an automatic process. Your employer must inform you, in writing, that your FMLA leave has begun; FMLA cannot be charged retroactively prior to the date of this written correspondence.
The decision to access both types of benefits simultaneously can be a complicated one. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the legal and financial advantages and disadvantages of all your options and help you make the decision that best protects your interests.
We’re Ready to Help
If you’re suffering from a serious injury or illness that impacts your ability to work, it can feel like no one is on your side. That should never be the case. The experienced, skilled, and caring attorneys at Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin, & Ratliff, LLP in Oregon are here to fight for your interests. We’re dedicated to helping you understand all your options and navigate the legal process so you receive the worker’s compensation and other benefits you need and deserve.
Consultations are free and you will not be charged unless you win your case. Contact us today to tell us about your situation and find out how we can help you.