Are Georgia workers eligible for both workers’ compensation benefits and FMLA?
In the United States, many people suffer from workplace injuries each day. Most of those injured employees qualify for workers’ compensation.
Alternatively, employees may need to take time off from work due to a family issue or a serious injury. When that happens, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can protect the workers from losing their jobs.
Sometimes, the situations may overlap, which can create misunderstandings about the differences between FMLA and workers’ comp.
Understanding FMLA and workers’ compensation
Prior to the enactment of FMLA in 1993, employees who missed work due to sickness or injury could lose their jobs. Georgia and many other states use a doctrine called “employment at will.” This doctrine allowed an employer to terminate a worker’s job for nearly any reason, even if that reason was questionable.
When an employee became ill and required time off from work, the employer could legally fire that worker. It was a real possibility that the employee would be terminated if they took significant time off to recover from their illness or disease.
FMLA offeres workers protection from being fired in certain situations. When an employee qualifies under FMLA, they may receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. The employee may then return to work.
However, FMLA doesn’t cover all employees and all situations. It applies to employers with 50 or more employees located within a 75-mile radius. In addition, a worker must have at least 12 months of employment completed with at least 1250 hours in the prior 12 months.
Lastly, FMLA covers leave for only serious health issues of the worker or the worker’s spouse, child or parent. Some leave may qualify to take care of a child.
Can workers’ compensation and FMLA work together?
In Georgia, an employer must pay an employee workers’ compensation benefits when an injury occurs on the job. Frequently, the injury results in lost time from work.
Is that worker’s job protected under the workers’ compensation regulations?
The workers’ compensation rules don’t prevent an employer from firing a worker who is injured on the job. This is where FMLA can offer the job protection that the workers’ compensation regulations don’t offer.
When an employee misses work due to a work-related injury, they should temporarily receive total disability benefits. They may also qualify for FMLA protection and receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
When employees qualify for FMLA leave and return to employment within 3 months, they can usually have their job protected. While FMLA leave is unpaid, the workers’ compensation payments can help cover the lost paychecks.
What happens when FMLA runs out?
Once FMLA leave runs out, an employer may fire the employee if they have not returned to work. Depending on the specifics of the workers’ compensation case, the temporary total disability benefits may cease or continue.
Georgia has some interesting rules that impact the workers’ compensation laws and whether the benefits may continue if you’re fired. The specifics of each case are very important. If benefits do cease, it can be a significant battle to win back those benefits.
When an employee suffers a workplace injury, the loss of income can be devastating. What happens in a case prior to termination can prevent monetary benefits from ceasing.
If you have been injured on the job and you are worried that you may be fired, it is imperative to consult with an attorney who has knowledge and experience with Georgia workers’ compensation cases.
If I’m injured at work, am I required to file for FMLA?
If your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance and you suffer a work-related injury, you will most likely qualify for benefits and have no need to submit an FMLA claim. An employer can’t force an employee to take unpaid leave under FMLA in lieu of receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
When an employee receives workers’ comp, this stops the employee from substituting any type of accrued paid leave for the time of absence that is covered by those payments. Substitution may be required if leave is unpaid.
However, if an employee receives total temporary disability (TTD), long-term disability (LTD), short-term disability (STD) or workers’ compensation light duty, no substitution may be made or required.
Additional questions about workers’ compensation and FMLA
The workers’ compensation system in Georgia can be quite complex and confusing. You may worry about receiving the right treatment and paying bills. You also need to pay close attention to deadlines that might negatively impact your rights to qualify for FMLA and workers’ compensation benefits.
Our attorneys at Gerber & Holder offer you a complimentary consultation to discuss your situation. Once we have learned the facts surrounding your case, we can discuss how we might approach the case and help you protect your rights.