If you’ve been injured on the job, your employer may try to force you to take time off work. In some cases, they might be in their rights to require you to use the time off, but not if it would cost you workers’ compensation benefits.
In some cases, both times off under the Family Medical Leave Act and payments from workers’ compensation may run concurrently.
Rules of the FMLA
To understand why, first we need to understand what’s covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. The FMLA provides employees with protected time off in the event that they need to tend to illnesses or other medical needs. That time off is not paid, but it does ensure they aren’t fired for missing work due to an injury.
Items covered by the FMLA include:
- Medical leave when the employee is unable to work due to a serious condition
- Care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
- Birth and care for a newborn child of the employee
- Placement of a child for adoption/foster care with an employee
If you need to take time off for these needs, your employer can’t fire you as long as you qualify for time off under the FMLA. To qualify, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during that time. In addition, your employer must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
Unpaid time off can reach up to 12 weeks per year.
Workers’ Compensation Law and the FMLA
Workers’ compensation law is designed to provide for the monetary needs of employees who have been injured on the job. As such, if you’ve been injured at work, you are entitled to workers’ comp in most cases.
The issue that your employer might have is the fact that workers’ compensation benefits might mean extra costs for them. In some cases, providing you with benefits could mean an increase in their insurance premiums, so they might try to steer you toward simply taking time off instead of filing a claim.
That said, if you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you are entitled to them. Your employer cannot legally force you to take time off under FMLA instead of receiving benefits because the law requires them to offer whichever one gives the greater benefit to you.
Both at the Same Time
That said, you may be asked to use the time off in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This is perfectly legal, and it means the clock will tick on both your benefits and time off. That said, your employer may not fire you simply for having to recover from an injury, even if it takes a while.
If you’re not certain where your situation lands you in terms of FMLA and workers’ compensation benefits, or if your employer is trying to pressure you to take time off instead of receiving compensation, you’ll want an attorney on your side. Having a skilled attorney advocate for your rights is often what it takes to make sure you’re treated properly in the event of a work injury.