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Don’t Forget To Notify Employees Of Their Family Medical Leave Act Rights


If you run a business, it may be your complete intention to follow and comply with the law. But sometimes this can be very difficult, because with the myriad of federal regulations, federal laws, and state laws, many of those laws can conflict with each other, or at least, be confusing as to which law takes precedence over another.

Workers Compensation and the FMLA

Such is the case with worker’s compensation laws and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Here’s the conflict or source of possible confusion: On the one hand, an injured worker has the right, under the FMLA, to be given time off of work without losing his or her job (the FMLA also applies to sick workers, or workers who need time off to provide or care for sick, ill or injured family members). Employers have an obligation under the FMLA, to inform workers of their FMLA rights.

Worker’s compensation laws have a provision where an employer has a right to offer a still-injured employee a “reduced duty” job—that is, to offer light work or an altered job position that the injured worker can do even with his or her injury.

Case Addresses Confusion

A recent federal case addressed this conflict. In the case, the employer offered an injured worker the chance to come to work and do the reduced duty work. The worker took the offer, but could not perform the work because of her injuries, and she was fired.

She sued, saying that although the reduced duty work was offered to her under Florida’s workers compensation laws, the ability to take time off (which she would have used to heal further) under the FMLA was never given to her, as is required by the FMLA. The employer contended that once the reduced duty offer was given and accepted, there was no need to inform the worker of her FMLA rights.

The issue is whether the worker’s compensation laws take precedence over the FMLA, and whether the FMLA’s notice requirements were necessary, if the worker was given the reduced duty offer under the worker’s compensation laws.

Court Says FMLA Still Applies

The Federal Court said that the FMLA still had to be followed by the employer. As the worker alleged, the Court noted that had the worker been given the offer of time off under the FMLA, she could have returned to work later, recovered further, and likely kept her job.

Workers who do elect the FMLA’s time off option, and reject returning to work under light duty do risk losing their workers compensation benefits. The FMLA does not get rid of the right of employers to end compensation benefits for employees who do not return to light or reduced duty work.

However, employers are reminded that injured workers (among others) always need to be informed of, and offered, their rights under the FMLA.

Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig for help today whether you are an employee or employer.



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