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fmla lawyer in auburn alabama

Worker’s Compensation and FMLA

When an employee becomes injured or suffers an illness, s/he has multiple options for getting the time off needed to treat the condition. Two of these options are workers’ compensation leave and time off through the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These two programs serve similar purposes, but they differ in some significant ways. Many employees wonder what happens to them when these two programs overlap.

Understanding FMLA

The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law created in 1993 that gives employees who work for organizations with 50 or more employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. Unpaid leave may be granted under FMLA for any of the following reasons:

  • Giving birth to a child and/or caring for a newborn;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption and caring for the newly adopted child;
  • Dealing with a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his/her job;
  • Caring for the spouse, child, or parent of an employee when the loved one has a serious health condition.

Under the FMLA, an employee’s job is protected during the time that s/he is out of work. When the leave is over, the employer must allow the employee to return to his/her job or to another job that is equivalent.

Understanding Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a program that allows employees to receive treatment and benefits when they suffer an injury or illness due to a work-related accident. The program provides compensation for medical expenses, two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly gross pay for time missed from work, and in some cases, compensation for a partial or total permanent disability.

Workers’ compensation benefits are only paid for accidents that occur during the course of employment, regardless of fault. There are a few exceptions to the “no fault” provision, such as accidents that result from willful employee misconduct, accidents resulting from an employee being drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs on the job, and an employee’s intention to due himself/herself harm.

Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. In Alabama, most employers with five or more employees are required to carry workers’ comp insurance. Most employees in Alabama also have “at will” employment. This means that an employee can be terminated for any reason, and employees can also resign for any reason or no reason at all. Unless you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement stating otherwise, you are most likely an “at will” employee. This also means that employees who take time off to treat a workers’ compensation-related injury do not have job protection.

Though there is no requirement to hold an employee’s job under workers’ compensation, employers are not allowed to terminate an employee in retaliation for reporting a workplace injury and/or filing a workers’ comp claim. Employers will almost never cite this as the reason for termination, but if you suspect that you may have been terminated because of your workers’ compensation claim, you should compile as much evidence as possible and speak to an experienced employment law attorney.

When FMLA and Workers’ Compensation Overlap

If an employee is required to miss work due to a serious health condition, the provisions of both FMLA and workers’ compensation could be applicable. In such cases, the provisions of both laws can run concurrently; meaning that they would both be in effect at the same time. If an employer does require an employee to take FMLA leave, they must notify the employee in writing. FMLA leave begins on the date the employer provides written notice to the employee; they cannot charge employees retroactively against their FMLA for leave already taken before the written notice was provided.

Because FMLA provides more job protection than workers’ compensation, it might be in the employee’s best interests to utilize both programs at the same time. Job security is important, and by using FMLA concurrently with workers’ comp, you can ensure that your position (or an equivalent position) will be there when you come back from leave.

Speak with a Seasoned Attorney to Discuss your Options

The workers’ compensation and FMLA laws can be confusing, especially when the two laws converge, which is usually the case when an Alabama worker suffers a serious health condition resulting from a workplace accident. To further complicate matters, some employers throw up roadblocks or deny workers’ comp benefits outright. When you need help understanding these laws and getting approved for benefits, it is best to talk with a skilled attorney.

At Alsobrook Jackson, Attorneys at Law, we have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of workers’ comp and FMLA laws, and we have helped numerous Alabama workers who have had trouble accessing the benefits they deserve. If you are anywhere in Opelika, Auburn, or throughout Alabama, call us today at 334-737-3718 for a free consultation.

workers comp attorney in auburn

How to File an Alabama Workers’ Compensation Claim

Most Alabama employers with more than four employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp is a program that provides benefits to employees who suffer injury or illness due to an accident on the job, regardless of who is at fault. In exchange for the “no fault” provision, employees are usually unable to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer for their injuries.

The workers’ compensation claims process can be very confusing, and many employees find it difficult to navigate the complexities of it. There are certain steps that need to be followed if you are injured on the job, and it is important to complete each step in the process. The steps to take to apply for workers’ comp are:

Report the Accident Right Away: When you become injured or ill from an accident at work, you need to report it immediately to your manager or supervisor. Alabama law requires you to report the incident within five days, so make sure to do this at the first convenient time. If your employer is already aware of the incident, this knowledge has been held to be the equivalent of statutory notice.

Seek Medical Attention: Your employer selects the doctor you will see to be treated for your condition. Check with them right away to find out where they want to send you for treatment. If you are not satisfied with the initial treating physician and additional treatment is required, you can inform your employer and be allowed to choose from a panel or list of four other physicians your employer selects.

File a Workers’ Compensation Claim Benefit Form: If your employer agrees to accept liability for the accident, a First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease Form must be completed. This form should be filled out by your employer, your employer’s insurer, or a third-party administrator. The form includes information about the employee’s wages and describes the injury, how it occurred, the severity of the injury, and medical treatment received.

What if My Employer Denies Liability for my Claim?

There are many cases in which an employer declines to accept liability for an injured employee. They might do so by alleging one of the following:

  • The injury did not result from an accident;
  • The accident did not occur in the course of employment;
  • The employee did not give proper notice of the accident to the employer;
  • The accident was caused by willful misconduct on the part of the employee;
  • The accident was caused by the employee being intoxicated from alcohol and/or the use of illegal drugs;
  • The accident resulted from an employee’s intention to kill himself/herself or someone else;
  • The accident resulted from the actions of a fellow employee or third person for reasons unrelated to your employment;
  • The employee failed or willfully refused to utilize safety equipment which the employer provided;
  • The employee willfully refused or willfully neglected to perform a statutory duty;
  • The employee had knowledge of and willfully breached an employer’s reasonable rule or regulation.

If your employer does not want to accept responsibility for your work-related accident, you have a couple of options; you can contact the Worker’s Compensation Division of the Alabama Department of Labor and ask to speak with an examiner to look at your claim, or you can retain an attorney and pursue your claim through the courts. An experienced Workers’ Comp attorney will be able to thoroughly assess the specific circumstances of your case and help determine the best legal path to recover the compensation you deserve.

Your attorney may be able to work out a settlement with your employer, or if your employer is not willing to be reasonable, the case may need to go to litigation. In cases involving a third party who was the cause of the accident and injury, you may be able to recover damages under Alabama personal injury laws. By working with an attorney, you can ensure that all your legal options are explored and that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

Speak with a Skilled Alabama Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be complex and confusing. Oftentimes, employees find it very difficult to obtain the benefits they need to make ends meet when they are injured and out of work for a while. Employers may deny benefits for arbitrary reasons, and in many cases, these tactics are designed to frustrate the employee in hopes that they will give up.

At Alsobrook Jackson, Attorneys at Law, we understand the frustration working people have when they are eligible for workers’ comp but denied by their employer. We aggressively pursue benefits for our clients, and we have a strong track record of success with these types of cases. If you are denied workers’ compensation benefits anywhere in Opelika, Auburn, or throughout Alabama, call our office today at 334-737-3718 for a free consultation.