What’s the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and the FMLA?
While the benefits afforded by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and the federal Family & Medical Leave Act may occasionally overlap, for the most part, they are completely separate programs that can help employees during difficult times.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance program, paid for by your employer, which pays benefits when an employee is injured at work or has a work-related illness. Employees receive medical treatment and are partially compensated for lost wages. Wage benefits equal two-thirds of your pre-injury wage, up to a weekly maximum. An employer that carries workers’ compensation insurance, as is required by Pennsylvania law, is protected from direct lawsuits by injured employees.
What Is the FMLA?
The Family & Medical Leave Act is a federal law that requires employers to give an employee up to 12 weeks off during any 12-month period to deal with a serious medical condition – whether it’s job-related or not. The employee can also take FMLA leave to care for a close family member who is dealing with a serious medical condition. FMLA is unpaid leave, but any health insurance benefits you had before taking leave must be maintained. Your employer is barred by law from firing or demoting you in retaliation for taking FMLA leave.
How Do Workers’ Compensation and the FMLA Overlap?
If you need to take time off to deal with a serious work injury or illness, both workers’ compensation and the FMLA may apply. Through workers’ compensation, you would receive two-thirds pay for the time you needed to recover. That time off could also be counted toward your FMLA 12-week maximum – so long as your employer notifies you that they are doing so. In other words, your employer can’t decide later that the workers’ compensation time off you took also constitutes FMLA leave.
There are lots of programs, laws, and regulations out there meant to protect workers from unfair or unscrupulous employers. Sometimes they intersect in ways that can be complex and confusing for someone who isn’t an expert. An attorney can help you navigate the legal maze of workers’ compensation, the FMLA, and other employment laws and personal injury laws to preserve all the rights and benefits to which you are entitled.