Do You Have to Use FMLA When You’re on Workers’ Comp?

by NPHM | October 19th, 2020

Whether you have a family or are just supporting yourself, it’s important to have a steady, reliable job. Suffering an injury or illness that’s severe enough to make it difficult or impossible for you to work can threaten your income and overall life stability.

Thankfully, both the federal government and the state of Ohio have safety nets for workers whose health prevents them from working—and both safety nets provide different benefits and can intersect in different ways.

What Is FMLA?

The federal government created the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993. This law allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off from their jobs during any 12-month period for things such as:

  • Recovering from a serious illness or injury
  • Taking care of seriously ill family members
  • Caring for a newborn baby or infant

FMLA is considered unpaid leave. That means workers don’t receive their paychecks while they are using it. However, FMLA guarantees that workers won’t be fired or demoted while they are away from their workplaces. That means that while workers who use FMLA temporarily lose their income, they don’t lose their jobs.

To be eligible for FMLA, workers must first be employed for a minimum of 12 months at a business that is required to participate. Not all businesses meet this criterion, which includes having at least 50 employees or being a governmental agency.

What Is Workers’ Comp?

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that all employers in Ohio are required to purchase. The insurance provides injured or sick workers with replacement income when they’re too unwell to do their jobs. Unlike FMLA, workers’ compensation is handled by the state, not the federal government.

In Ohio, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OBWC) reviews all claims. The OBWC has strict criteria for approving claims, but when workers who are out of work for at least seven days get the green light from this agency, their employers are required to pay them a percentage of their pre-injury wages while they recover.

Unlike FMLA, workers’ compensation benefits can be applied for and received on the first day of employment if an injury or illness happens while working. There’s also no time limit for how long the benefits may be collected.

How Do the Two Programs Intersect?

Because workers’ compensation only covers on-the-job injuries, it doesn’t play a role in FMLA claims that involve taking care of sick family members or caring for newborn babies. However, FMLA also covers injured workers, which means the two programs may intersect.

One of the most common ways the programs intersect is when employers demand that injured or sick workers use their FMLA while away from work and receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, because workers’ compensation protects injured or sick workers from being fired, there may be no benefit to also using FMLA.

Unfortunately, employers may coerce workers into using FMLA while out on workers’ compensation, or they may argue that FMLA is a better option for them than applying for workers’ compensation benefits. They also may claim that using FMLA is a requirement before being able to receive workers’ compensation.

Finally, FMLA may be a wise option if you’re ineligible for workers’ compensation for any reason, as it will allow you to rest and recover at home without risking your job and career.

We’ll Help You Navigate This Common Scenario

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know that it can be difficult to decide what to do after an injury or illness puts you out of work. Our Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers want to help you make the right decisions during this difficult time, and we’ll do so by collecting all the information related to what happened and creating a path forward for you and your loved ones.

Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ve got nearly a century of experience fighting for the rights of injured people throughout Ohio, and we know how to get you the results you want.