Tuesday, July 24, 2012

FMLA, Short-Term Disability and Unemployment Compensation - How Do They All Fit Together?

Family Leave, Short-Term Disability and Unemployment Compensation - Complicated to Navigate Alone

FMLA - Job Security - No Money
Family and Medical Leave is available under a number of circumstances, including when an employee is suffering from a serious health condition.  The Family and Medical Leave Act provides that employees suffering from a serious health condition that limits their ability to perform their essential job functions are entitled to up to 12 weeks of UNPAID leave per 12 month period with a right to job reinstatement upon their return from leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act is designed to insure that employees who are forced to take time off from work due to a health crisis will not suffer the loss of their employment.  The FMLA is all about JOB SECURITY.

Click Here for a detailed description of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

STD Insurance - Money Not Job Security

The term "Short-Term Disability" refers to an insurance policy purchased by employers to provide income subsidy payments to employees who are out of work due to a serious health condition.  A Short-Term Disability insurance policy typically provides benefits equal to 2/3rds of an an employees base salary or weekly earnings for up to 26 weeks.

Short-Term Disability insurance policies are issued by insurance companies such as Hartford, State Farm, Cigna, Prudential, etc.  These insurance companies are not employers of the employees who require benefits.  Consequently, these insurance policies have nothing to do with job security.  They simply provide income subsidies.

So, FMLA provides unpaid leave and job security, while Short-Term Disability policies provide payment while one is out on leave, but no job security.

FMLA and Short-Term Disability policies are completely separate animals, but often are both in play when an employee needs to miss work due to personal illness or injury. 

If you require FMLA Leave, you will be eligible for Short-Term Disability insurance payments.  Under these circumstances, you will be paid Short-Term Disability benefits for the entire 12 weeks that you are out on FMLA leave.

One does not have to be employed to receive Short-Term Disability payments.  How can that be, and how do such circumstances arise?

You Can Get UC Benefits if Out
 on Sick Leave Without Pay
If an employee cannot return to work within 12 weeks of the start of  FMLA leave, he/she can be fired without recourse.  However, such an employee would still be eligible for up to 14 more weeks of Short-Term Disability payments.  Consequently, an employee who is terminated from his/her job because he/she could not return to work within 12 weeks of the start of FMLA leave could still receive Short-Term Disability payments for an additional 14 weeks.

Can I Get Unemployment Benefits if I am Out on Sick Leave?

In many situations, the answer is: Yes.  Click Here to learn more.

These are thorny issues, and it is best to consult with counsel prior to starting stress-related FMLA leave to map out a strategy.

NOTE:  Sometimes employees seeking Short-Term Disability benefits due to job-related stress apply, or are encouraged to apply for, Workers' Compensation benefits.  This is usually a mistake.  Such claims are often denied by workers' compensation carriers.

Click Here for a comprehensive discussion on the relationship between STD, Workers' Compensation, FMLA leave and Long-Term Disability insurance payments.

John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania.

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of employment law, from wrongful termination to wage and overtime claims, from discrimination and retaliation laws to Family and Medical Leave, from worker misclassification issues to non-compete agreements…

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of Pennsylvania Unemployment Law, from willful misconduct, to voluntary quit, Independent Contractor/Self-Employment issues, Referee Hearings, severance issues…

Click Here to e-mail John directly.
Thanks for checking in with us.


gareth batty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gareth batty said...

Filing disability claims generally is a complex process. A lot of people facing disability understandably have no experience filing a claim, and at this point when they are not well, it is difficult to think intelligibly which they need to win the case. A simple mistake from your end can cost you a lot. Hence, first carefully understand what you have at risk, and wisely opt for the next step considering the options that make the most sense and are best for you.

Anonymous said...

What happens if you get fired while on fmla because you don't understand your company's policy? Can you still seek unemployment?

Employment Lawyers said...


Employees do not need to understand FMLA in order to be entitled to FMLA. Employees need only inform the employer of the existing serious health condition, and then provide medical certification when asked. You need not even mention FMLA to be entitled to FMLA.


John A. Gallagher

Angela Lee said...

Term life insurance is, as the name suggests, temporary. You may wish to be insured until retirement, or until your children are self-sufficient, or perhaps for the duration of a mortgage.

Anonymous said...

What if I am already collecting unemployment from being laid off and I've also became disabled while on unemployment. However my disability policy is not from my previous or present employer. It is a policy I've had for 22 years and has nothing to do with the job. Should I stop my UE benefits? I still have 2 months UE benefits left.

Anonymous said...

I have a somewhat complicated situation: I am currently in a training program which is an employed position (I get a salary) which will be ending on May 30th because that is when I will be done with my training. I get health insurance and short term disability through this position. I am currently pregnant and my due date is in mid-June (i.e. after my position ends). I will delay starting my new job until September 1st so I can spend 2 months home with the new baby. Is there any way I can get short term disability during this time period between jobs even though I will be technically unemployed?

Zaidet Lopez said...

My fmla job protection expires Tomorrow October 25 2013 my doctor (neurosurgeon) has me of till December 8 2013. I'm basically jobless after tomorrow I have an 18 month old son who needs me 100% what do I do ? Someone please redirect me in the right direction. Can I apply for unemployment. Can u receive both I need help understanding this thank u anyone

Employment Lawyers said...

Zaidet: You should become eligible for UC benefits once your doctor says you are cleared to return to work, which looks like. 12/8. You should file your application now and explain to minimize delay.

Employment Lawyers said...

Anon: Sorry for untimely response. If while employed you become disabled and thus eligible for STD benefits, you get them. Unfortunately, even though your "condition" occurred while you were employed, you would not get benefits if your actual period of disability started after your employmend ended....