Workplace injuries can trigger compliance requirements under multiple laws at the federal, state, and local levels. Some of the most common and costly mistakes by employers occur while attempting to navigate the intersections of these laws. Below are a few key takeaways on the interaction and overlap of workers’ comp and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).*
Refresher on the applicable laws:
FMLA is a federal statute that applies to eligible employees of covered employers. We don’t have time to go into the details, but you can read more here. As an overview, just know that (1) FMLA provides job protected unpaid leave for, among other reasons, an employee’s own serious health condition, and (2) covered employers are prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying an eligible employee’s efforts to exercise any FMLA right. Note: Failure to provide the required notices and forms at the right time may qualify as a violation of an employee’s rights under FMLA.
Workers’ Compensation: Most states require employers to provide their employees with workers’ comp benefits. Workers’ comp allows an employee who is injured in a work-related accident to receive payments for all reasonable medical care and lost wages resulting from that injury.
- These laws are not designed to make life easier for employers.
- Sometimes the circumstances giving rise to, and the benefits provided by these laws, can overlap.
- Employers cannot use one benefit system as a shield against the applicability of another.
- Although employers may run FMLA and workers’ comp concurrently, it is not enough to simply provide workers’ comp benefits.
- The information gathered from handling a workers’ comp claim may be sufficient to notify the employer that an employee might be protected by the FMLA.
- Employers should view most workers’ comp claims in tandem with FMLA and not as separate and distinct requests. This is true even if different departments or third-party providers would handle the claims.
- The fact that an employee accepts a light-duty assignment in connection with their workers’ comp claim does not eliminate an employer’s obligations under the FMLA.
- Employers should also remember to check the facts of the situation against their obligations under the ADA.
Navigating the multiple laws stemming from a workplace injury can be a challenge for any employer. Thoughtful decision-making is necessary to avoid a mistake, which could have costly consequences. Employers grappling with these complexities are encouraged to reach out to an experienced employment attorney.
*Based on: Ramji v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC, 992 F.3d 1233 (2021).