If you find yourself injured on the job, and are required to miss work while you recover, you may be concerned about whether your job will still be waiting for you when you are able to return. Certain employees have federal protections available to them, in addition to their workers’ compensation benefits, which they may not be aware of.
What is FMLA?
Employees who suffer work related accidents may be covered under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act. In addition those same employees, who sustain what is known as a “serious health condition”, are entitled to federal protections under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. The most important safeguards available to injured workers require that employers provide twelve (12) weeks of job-protected unpaid leave and continue to provide group health benefits during that twelve (12) week period. Put another way, FMLA holds your job open for twelve (12) weeks, if you are injured on the job and qualify for FMLA.
How Do I Know if I Qualify for FMLA?
If you work for a private employer who has at least fifty (50) employees, a federal, state ,or local government, or an elementary or secondary school (regardless of the number of employees), you are eligible for FMLA in addition to workers’ compensation benefits as long as you suffer a “serious health condition” in the course of your employment.
If you do work for a covered employer, you must have worked for that employer for at least twelve (12) months in order to qualify for job protection through FMLA, even if that work is seasonal.
A “serious health condition” includes a work injury where (1) you required an overnight stay in a hospital or medical facility; or (2) you were off work for more than three days and required ongoing medical treatment (such as multiple doctors’ appointments and/or follow up care).
What is the Difference Between FMLA and Workers’ Compensation?
Pay: Workers’ Compensation entitles you to payment of temporary total or partial disability benefits while you are off work and the payment of all reasonable treatment for your compensable work related injury. FMLA, however, is unpaid leave, which ensures that, as long as you return to work within the twelve (12) week period, you are entitled to return to the same or equivalent job. So, if you suffer a “serious health condition” on the job you may be entitled to payment through workers’ compensation, while your job is held open by FMLA.
Medical Expenses and Health Insurance: FMLA requires that covered employers continue to pay health insurance as if you were still working. However, this does not include the medical expenses that you incur as a result of your work related accident. This is not usually a concern since Workers’ Compensation gives you the lifetime right to request payment of any medical treatment which is reasonable, necessary, and related to the on the job accident. In other words, if you injure your knee on the job and require a knee replacement surgery as a result of that accident, you have the right to request that the medical expenses and recovery from that surgery be paid for under Workers’ Compensation. If you catch a cold while out of work for that knee replacement surgery during the twelve (12) week FMLA period, you will still be able to see your primary care physician under your employer provided health insurance and the job will be held open for you.
Navigating how Workers’ Compensation interacts with the Family Medical Leave Act can be complicated. In addition, workers may not realize the rights that they have under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act and Federal FMLA. If you are injured on the job and require an extended leave of absence to recover from your injury, please contact Natalie Whittingham.