FMLA and Workers' Comp: What's the Difference?

In the United States, a workplace injury occurs approximately every 7 seconds. If you’re injured on the job, worker’s compensation insurance will likely provide you with some important benefits.

What happens, however, if you have to take some time away due to a serious illness or a family issue?

In this case, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may protect you from losing your job. When both situations overlap, there’s always confusion about the difference between FMLA and workers’ comp benefits.

Keep reading to learn the basics of FMLA and workers’ comp, so you can more clearly understand your rights.

Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a Department of Labor (DOL) regulation. It offers covered employees job security while taking unpaid leave due to any of the following circumstances:

  • A serious health condition impacting the employee, making them unable to perform the duties of the job
  • Caring for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition (this includes spouse, children, and parents)
  • The birth of a child and taking care of the child during the first year
  • Adopting or fostering a child and taking care of the newly-placed child within the first year

twin babies snuggled in basket

Under FMLA, an employee can take up to 12 weeks off during a 12-month period. Although you won’t be paid while you’re out, you’re still entitled to your benefits, including healthcare. You are also entitled to job protection. When you return to work, you must be placed back in your original job or the equivalent.

To qualify for FMLA, your employer must have at least 50 employees and you must have worked for the business for at least 12 months.

The Basics of Worker’s Compensation

Workman’s compensation provides you with income replacement if you can’t return to work after suffering a work-related illness or injury as determined by an authorized treating physician. It also provides healthcare benefits to treat your condition, as long as it’s caused by something that happened while you were working.

There’s no time limit for how long you can be out on worker’s compensation, but, unlike FMLA leave, there’s also no guarantee that your job will be waiting for you when you return.

legs in wheelchair

When FMLA and Workers’ Comp Overlap

One major difference between FMLA and workers’ comp is the cause of the injury or illness. If your inability to work stems from work conditions or a work-related accident, you should file a workers’ compensation claim.

If your job-related illness or injury turns into a serious health condition, FMLA and workers comp can overlap. For instance, if you suffer a work-related illness or injury that also qualifies as a “serious health condition” under the FMLA.

In this case, both FMLA and workers’ comp will run concurrently. Contrary to popular belief, your employer is well within their legal rights to request that you take FMLA leave for a work-related injury, but they must grant you whichever type of leave gives you the most rights and benefits.

If you’re out on worker’s comp, however, the time you’re off could count against your 12-weeks of FMLA time. If your employer elects to do this, you must be notified in writing that you’re being placed under FMLA leave.

FMLA and Workers’ Comp: Understanding Your Rights

Understanding the differences between FMLA, workers comp, or even unemployment can be a challenge, but you don’t have to deal with it on your own.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the confusing web of information you may be receiving from various sources (your employer, the internet, the insurance company, your doctor). Every injury, every case, every individual is different and no one article can possibly provide you with legal advice relevant to your particular situation.

Contact us today to discuss your case. We’ll help you understand your rights and make sure you get the compensation you deserve!

Brian Tadros

Brian Tadros

Mr. Tadros has been a member of the Florida Bar for over 14 years. Over the course of his legal career, Mr. Tadros has represented injured workers, employers, and insurance companies. This wide variety of experience provides him with a unique perspective which assists him in achieving the best possible outcome for his clients.