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Using FMLA Protections to Save Your Job when You’re Injured

Under federal law and protections, injured workers who are unable to perform their jobs may use their Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time for days off from work to attend to medical care and recovery without fear of termination.

FMLA Job Protection

FMLA is a federal law that entitles injured workers to time off from work when they can’t perform their jobs. FMLA time can be used to attend to injuries and serious health conditions for a worker’s own injury or illness, or medical needs of an immediate family member. Although the worker receives no pay under FMLA time, he/she is protected against getting fired while away from work. Employers who fail to provide FMLA protections, risk federal law violations.

When an employer requires an employee to use his/her FMLA time to take time off for job-related injuries, it is not illegal. However, the employer must make sure that the employee is not exhausting all eligible benefits under certain laws. When both FMLA and workers’ compensation laws apply, an employer must provide leave under the law that provides greater employee rights and benefits. FMLA time off and workers’ compensation time off can run concurrently, but only if the employer gives written notice to the employee that time off will count as FMLA leave.

While workers’ compensation benefits cover a worker’s medical care and lost wages for workplace injuries, it does provide job protection and security. By law, FMLA protection provides an eligible worker who can’t perform his/her job due to injury or illness with up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid, job-protected leave. Employers that create leave policies must understand FMLA and workers’ compensation laws. Even if an injured worker returns to work under a workers’ compensation program, he/she still has 12 weeks of allowed time off for FMLA time. To limit the amount of time injured workers are off the job, many employers run FMLA time and workers’ compensation time simultaneously. This allows them to stay in compliance with both federal and state laws.

Many injured workers who need time off for medical care and recovery use their workers’ compensation benefits. However, under workers’ compensation laws, an employer is not required to hold a worker’s job. If there’s a possibility that an injured worker may be terminated or replaced during his/her time off the job, using FMLA time provides job protection, stating that an employer must return a worker to his/her pre-injury job.

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