Many people who have workers’ compensation injuries may also qualify for FMLA. FMLA stands for the Family Medical Leave Act. Congress passed this law in 1993 to provide job protection for employees who needed to miss time from their jobs.
Before FMLA, an employee who had to miss time from work because of a sickness or injury might lose his or her job. Many states, including Georgia, operate under the “employment at will” doctrine. This rule allowed an employer to terminate someone’s employment for almost any reason at all, even if it was a bad reason.
Suppose an employee got sick and had to miss two weeks from work. Under the “employment at will” rule, the employer might choose to go ahead and fire the employee. The possibility of being fired put employees in a very bad situation if they were sick or injured.
How did the Family Medical Leave Act help solve this problem?
FMLA provided certain employees with protected leave from their job in limited situations. Those employees who are covered by FMLA can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period.
It is important to understand that FMLA leave is unpaid. While it does not pay you, FMLA leave protects your job and prevents your employer from firing you during the time you are on FMLA leave.
Remember that not everyone is covered by FMLA. First, FMLA only covers employers with 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius. Second, it only covers employees who have been at the company at least 12 months and worked at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months. Third, it only covers leave for serious health conditions of the employee or the employee’s spouse, child, or parent or certain leave to take care of a child.
How do FMLA and workers’ compensation work together?
Georgia workers’ compensation law requires your employer to pay you workers’ compensation benefits when you suffer a compensable work-related injury. Many times, the workers’ compensation injury will cause you to miss time from work.
Isn’t your job protected while you are out on workers’ compensation? While it may seem strange, there is nothing in Georgia’s workers’ compensation law that prevents your employer from firing you after you are injured at work. FMLA provides some job protection because employees can often receive up to 12 weeks of leave.
If you are out of work because of a work-related injury, you should receive temporary total disability benefits. You may also be eligible for FMLA leave to protect your job for up to 12 weeks. This can really be helpful if you have suffered an injury.
If you are eligible for FMLA leave and return to work within 3 months, you can probably protect your job. Although the FMLA leave itself is technically “unpaid”, the workers’ compensation benefits you should receive essentially turn it into paid leave.
What if I am not eligible for FMLA or my FMLA leave runs out?
Your employer may fire you once your FMLA leave runs out. Also, there is nothing that necessarily prevents your employer from firing your once you are back at work. Depending on what is happening in your workers’ compensation case when you are fired, your workers’ compensation temporary total disability benefits may continue or may stop.
There are some strange rules under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws that affect whether your benefits will continue after you are fired. Exactly what is going on in your case is very important. If you have to fight to get your benefits restarted, it can take many months or even longer.
If you are still injured, it is very difficult to go this long without money coming in. Sometimes, what is done before you are fired can prevent your benefits from being stopped.
If you are concerned that you may be fired, you should consult with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. An attorney can discuss the workers’ compensation rules in Georgia and how they would affect your case.
I am happy to provide you with a free consultation to discuss your case. After learning the facts of your case, I can provide you with some information about how I would approach it if you decided to hire me. To find out more about how the free consultation process works at our firm and how you can set one up, you can read this article.
Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers. He regularly blogs about Georgia’s workers’ compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.
You can subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation channel on YouTube.