Q: I was injured at work. When I asked my employer about workers’ compensation, he told me to apply for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits instead. Are they the same thing?
No, FMLA benefits are not the same as workers’ compensation benefits. The FMLA is a federal law requiring employers to give their employees time off to recover from serious health issues that prevent them from working. Workers’ compensation, on the other hand, provides injured workers with income and coverage for their medical expenses.
The Family Medical Leave Act
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take time off from work for qualifying reasons, with no fear of losing their jobs. Workers are permitted to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period. The employee’s job is protected during this time, and when he returns to work his employer must assign him either to his original job or to an equivalent position.
Unpaid leave must be given to an eligible employee for:
- The birth, adoption, and care of a child.
- The care of a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition.
- A serious ailment preventing the employee from performing his job.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance for employees injured at work. Texas law permits most employers to determine whether or not they wish to provide workers’ compensation insurance. If the employer chooses to offer it, workers’ compensation provides coverage for work-related injuries, including:
- Payments equal to a percentage of average weekly wages lost due to temporary or permanent disability.
- Benefits to help the employee locate alternative employment if he is unable to return to his previous job.
- A death benefit equaling 75 percent of the worker’s average weekly wage, and up to $10,000 in burial expenses if his death resulted from work-related illness or injuries.
If an employee qualifies for both the FMLA and workers’ compensation programs, his employer must allow him to use the one that provides more benefits. This will typically be workers’ compensation, since leave under the FMLA is generally unpaid. However, in many instances a work absence stemming from a workers’ compensation claim will also count against the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided by the FMLA.
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve sustained injuries in the workplace, you need an experienced attorney to protect your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve. To learn more about what the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., can do for you, visit us on Facebook.