When an employee is injured on the job and cannot work, there are three questions to answer:
- How long must we hold the job?
- Does the employee need to be paid while on leave? And
- What do we do about his or her health insurance?
Different laws will determine the answers to each.
Employees injured on the job are entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits which include (1) some portion of salary continuation as an insurance benefit and (2) payment of injury-related medical bills (separate from the employee’s personal health insurance). The Workers’ Compensation statutes are not leave statutes and do not authorize the employee to be absent. Of course, that can seem a little silly when an injured employee who is entitled to these benefits cannot work, however the Workers’ Compensation statute does not answer the question “how long must we hold this employee’s job while he or she cannot work?”
If your company is covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), that question is going to be answered by that statute, as well as the applicable federal and state disability discrimination statutes that may require the company to provide leave as a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee. Company policy, and potentially past practice, may come into play as well.
When an employee goes on a disability leave for a work related injury, in addition to completing any Workers’ Comp related paperwork, the company needs to make sure that the employee is given the relevant documentation under the FMLA as well, if it applies. FMLA leave and “Workers’ Compensation Leave” would run concurrently. If this is not done, the company could be seen as denying the employee FMLA rights to which he or she is entitled.
Determining which laws will apply to an employee who requires leave due to a personal work related injury can be complicated due to the overlapping federal, state, and sometimes local laws that are going to apply. Employment counsel familiar with the laws of the place where your business is located can help you wade through the details to ensure the company complies with its obligations under the intertwining laws.