An injury or illness severe enough to keep you out of work can be devastating. You’re faced with medical bills, time away from work, and concerns surrounding returning to your original position.
If you were injured on the job in South Carolina, there are laws in place that protect you from losing your job when you miss work to recover from an injury. There are also laws that require employers to provide adequate compensation when an employee suffers an injury at work. However, without knowing all the facts surrounding both state and federal laws, you can lose some of the benefits you’re entitled to, or be forced to use up provisions you don’t need.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can help you keep your job if you need time off to recover from an illness or accident. South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act assists employees who suffer injury from an accident at work.
It’s important to note that FMLA is not specifically designed for injuries that occurred at work and that SC workers’ comp provides added benefits on top of simply maintaining your employment after recovery. However, both can be used for recovering from an accident that occurred at work, and if you don’t know your rights, you can be forced to take your FMLA leave even when you’re covered by workers’ comp.
What Is The Family Medical Leave Act?
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation established in 1993. It provides employees with up to 12 weeks of leave each year without the threat of losing employment under qualifying conditions.
FMLA applies to employers that have at least 50 employees. It also requires you to have been working for the same employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous year.
Among other qualifying reasons, employees can take leave under FMLA because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of their position. FMLA guarantees you can take up to 12 weeks (consecutive or nonconsecutive) leave without losing your job to take care of an injury. Therefore, an injury that occurred at work would qualify. However, FMLA is unpaid leave, which means you won’t receive any compensation while out of work.
What is South Carolina Workers’ Compensation?
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act is a state-run program that requires employers to provide certain benefits for employees who have been injured on the job. Workers’ comp benefits include coverage of medical expenses, temporary compensation for lost time, and permanent disability benefits if the employee suffered any permanent injury as a result of a work accident.
Workers’ compensation in South Carolina requires you to be paid two-thirds of your gross wages while you are out of work while FMLA offers no compensation. Workers’ compensation can also require your employer to offer light-duty working options that will allow you to work and get paid even if you aren’t capable of completing your regular duties.
How Does FMLA Affect My Workers’ Compensation Case?
An employee who can’t perform their regular work duties due to an accident at work and has been with their employer for over 12 months is likely eligible for both workers’ comp and FMLA leave. Both of these programs can be used at the same time. Still, choosing to depend on workers’ comp alone or FMLA, or both, depends on your unique circumstances.
South Carolina workers’ compensation intersects with FMLA because both programs are designed to protect employees with serious injuries. However, there are some important differences that can make one program more appealing than the other for your time out of work.
Key Differences Between Workers Comp and FMLA
- FMLA applies to injuries and illnesses whether they occurred at work or not while workers’ comp only applies to on-the-job injuries.
- Workers’ comp offers compensation for time off equal to two-thirds of your wages while FMLA offers no compensation.
- FMLA provides protected leave that requires the employer to allow the employee to return to their previous job or an equivalent position after 12 weeks. While an employer cannot fire you for getting hurt on the job or taking workers’ comp, they aren’t required to hold your job for you while you’re out of work. (You could still get laid off or your job could be eliminated for an unrelated reason.)
- While FMLA requires you to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, you can be eligible for workers’ comp on your first day of employment.
It is illegal for your employer to deny you workers’ compensation benefits when you’ve been injured on the job. However, it’s not uncommon for employers to attempt to convince employees to take FMLA leave instead of workers’ comp or file missed work as FMLA leave.
It’s important to remember that you can receive workers’ compensation benefits if you meet the qualifications and that your employer must inform you in writing when your FMLA leave has begun. Therefore, you cannot be completely left in the dark about the programs used for your time out of work.
Contact David Aylor Law Offices for Advice About Workers’ Comp Cases that Intersect with FMLA
Sometimes, filing for workers’ compensation can seem unnecessarily complex. However, such complications shouldn’t convince you to waive your rights as an employee. If you feel pressured to make a decision you’re unsure about after a work injury, it’s important to seek professional advice.
If you’ve suffered a work injury in the Charleston & Pee Dee areas of South Carolina and have questions about your rights, we can help. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation and protect your rights to proper compensation after a work injury.
Workers’ Comp & FMLA FAQs
Can both FMLA and workers’ comp be used at the same time?
Yes, but often there is no benefit to using both programs simultaneously. If you use up your FMLA leave due to an injury covered by workers’ comp, you won’t have the time available if you need it later in the year.
Can employers force injured employees to use FMLA?
While your leave might be classified as FMLA, your employer cannot deny you your workers’ compensation rights. In other words, you could be forced to lose your FMLA time, but you would still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits including medical coverage and lost wages.
When should you use FMLA for a work accident?
Proper recovery from any accident can take a significant amount of time. In some cases, an employee might be released to return to work before they feel healthy enough to carry out work duties. Since the employee will no longer be eligible for workers’ comp benefits after the doctor says they can return to work, taking FMLA leave can provide the extra time needed for recovery.