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FMLA and Workers’ Comp

Jay Johnson

Family Medical Leave ActMany times each year we get calls from clients in Aurora, Illinois telling us that they just got Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms to fill out from their employer.  “Can they do this?  Can they really make me use FMLA even though I got hurt at work?”, they ask.  “I’m supposed to be on workers’ comp.”

The answer to most people’s surprise is yes, they can.  The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and FMLA are two very different laws that provide two very different protections.  The Family Medical Leave Act is a Federal law that covers all state and local government workers and any worker whose company has 50 or more employees.  FMLA provides 12 weeks of job protected unpaid leave for workers who have a serious health condition, no matter what the cause of that condition is.  A work injury often qualifies as a serious health condition.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, on the other hand, is a State law that mandates employers provide specific benefits to employees who are injured on the job.  (Link to earlier blog or our manual?)  While the two laws provide different benefits, they do run together.

While it doesn’t seem right, current law says your employer can use your FMLA time at the same time you are out for a work-related injury.  One benefit of your employer forcing you to use your FMLA days is that if they do, they must continue your group health benefits under the same terms as if you continued to work.  If they don’t use those FMLA days, there is no such protection of your group health benefits.

Jay Johnson

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