Posted Jan 2019
New York’s workers’ compensation laws protect injured employees by ensuring their job-related medical bills are paid and by providing cash benefits for missed work. There is also a Federal law in place for the benefit of workers who suffer from a “serious health condition” and have to miss work. That law is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its provisions often overlap with the workers’ comp system.
The FMLA is a Federal statute that protects employees who miss work due to a “serious health condition.” It guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid leave for covered employees with continued health insurance coverage during that time. Additionally, employers must allow injured or ill workers to resume the same or an equivalent job once they return from FMLA leave.
A “serious health condition” applies to someone who needs an overnight stay in a hospital or misses at least three days of work due to medical issues that require ongoing treatment. Although injured workers often retain workers’ comp and FMLA benefits concurrently, there are several key differences.
Of course, the primary distinction between workers’ comp and FMLA is that the former provides for payment, based on the injured worker’s salary, for missed work, while the latter only offers unpaid leave.
On the flip side, the FMLA ensures that an injured worker can return to their job at any time within the 12-week period, without the worry of being replaced. Workers’ comp laws do not offer that kind of protection.
Although almost all employees in New York are covered by workers comp, FMLA coverage is a bit more limited. The FMLA applies to all government workers as well as employees who work for private companies with 50 or more employees
Although both laws cover injured and ill workers, workers’ comp is only available if an employee is hurt on the job or in the performance of work duties. The FMLA does not have such a restriction. Therefore, someone who comes down with a non-work-related illness may claim FMLA benefits despite not being eligible for workers’ comp.
Both laws provide certain assurances regarding the payment for healthcare, but they do so in different ways. Workers’ comp benefits typically pay for any medical expenses related to the work injury but require the employee to go to certain approved medical providers. The FMLA, on the other hand, simply requires the employer to maintain the employee’s usual health benefits while they are on leave. Therefore, an employee on both workers’ comp and FMLA may continue to visit their primary care provider for non-work-related medical issues.
The interaction of FMLA and workers’ compensation laws can be confusing, but it is important for injured workers to understand both in order to maximize their benefits. Our workers’ comp attorneys have helped injured workers navigate the complicated benefits system for over 20 years- please contact our office today for a consultation.