If you have unexpectedly found yourself unable to work due to a disability, you’re probably wondering what rights you have to receive disability benefits and whether you’ll still have a job if you are able to continue working in the future. The short answer is that in certain workplaces, you will receive benefits and have limited protection under the Family Medical Leave Act. Let’s look at that answer in a little more detail.
What is the FMLA? The Family Medical Act was signed into law in 1993 and protects eligible employees who need to take an unpaid leave due to a family or medical emergency. The FMLA states that eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the course of a year and, after they’ve used up their 12 weeks of leave, still return to the same or an equivalent job with their employer. During this time, the employee will continue to receive the same group health benefits that their employer would have offered them if they had been working during this time. Unfortunately, if the employee is absent for longer than 12 weeks, the employer can legally terminate them.
Which employers must offer family medical leave? Not all employers are legally obligated to offer family medical leave. All public sector agencies, no matter what the size, must comply with the FMLA, but only private sector organizations with 50 or more employees who work at least 20 weeks out of the year are required to offer the same leave. That means that employees of small, private workplaces are not protected by the FMLA.
Who is eligible for family medical leave? Even if your employer is covered by the FMLA, there are some reasons why you might be ineligible to family medical leave. In order to be protected under the FMLA, employees must:
- Have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the past 12 months
- Work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius
In addition to the limited time frame and specific eligibility requirements, one problem that many employees encounter with the FMLA is the lack of support they receive from their employer during their leave of absence. Many employees who file for both family medical leave and short term disability benefits will receive the medical leave (because their employer is legally obligated to give it to them) but will be denied short term disability benefits.
If you believe that your employer is wrongfully denying you short term disability benefits, you may need to work with an ERISA attorney to file a disability claim. You can learn more about this by contacting our law firm directly and following our blog for the latest ERISA news and updates. Be sure to check out our free e-book for more information!