FMLA vs. Workers’ Compensation: How These Two Laws Can Both Benefit an Injured Worker
Often times when I am speaking with clients, I’m asked about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These clients either want to use FMLA time themselves or their employer is asking that they fill out paperwork regarding FMLA. It can be confusing when the employee is trying to pursue a workers’ compensation claim, and the employer is also asking about FMLA. These are two separate laws, but the benefits of both can run concurrently.
In the most basic sense, FMLA is a law which was enacted by the federal government to protect the jobs of those who need to be away from work for an extended period of time due to their own or a close family member’s illness or injury. This law allows the employee to be away from work for up to 12 weeks per year for the illness or injury. Once the 12 weeks has expired, the employee can return to the same or an equivalent job with the employer. The employee’s group health insurance will remain in effect during the 12 weeks as if the employee was working. A “close family member” is a spouse, child, or parent, but not an in-law. The word that an employee should remember when thinking of FMLA is “protection.”
FMLA does not require that an employee be paid during their time away from work. If the employee has vacation or PTO time available, it can be used while the employee is away from the job under FMLA. The employer does not have to pay the employee their normal wages or salary during this time.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is the law which comes into play for an employee injured on the job when they are looking to be paid for their time away from work. One of the main benefits that an employee injured on the job is entitled to is Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments. TTD is equivalent to 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage tax-free for time missed from work due to the injury. The employee may be off work because their doctor has stated they need to be completely away from work. Likewise, if an employee’s doctor has stated that the employee can only perform light duty work and the employer has not provided a job within those light duty restrictions, the employee is also entitled to TTD benefits. There is not a limit on the amount of time that an employee can receive these benefits. The determining factor is whether the employee has reached a point in their recovery that they can return to their full-duty work. If an employee is receiving TTD benefits, it does not mean that their job is protected. However, even if an employee is no longer employed by the employer where they were injured, they can still receive TTD benefits. The word that an employee should remember when thinking of workers’ compensation is “payment.”
As you can see, these two laws can work in conjunction to ensure that an employee injured on the job is both paid for their time away from work and can return to their job once they have recovered from their injury. Pursuing the benefits available under both laws does not damage a workers’ compensation case, which is often a concern of clients. If you have been injured at work and have questions about either FMLA or the benefits available under workers’ compensation, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. That individual should be able to provide answers.