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What is the Difference Between FMLA & Workers' Compensation?


workers compensation lawyer huntsville

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and workers’ compensation are two entirely different laws.


About FMLA

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act which was passed in 1993. It requires employers covered by the Act to allow an employee to take leave in order to take care of family and medical issues without their job or benefits being affected.


FMLA generally only applies to private employers who have 50 or more employees, but it also applies to public agencies (local, state and federal). It requires them to allow an employee to take up to 12 workweeks in leave without suffering adverse employment actions – for example, losing his or her job or health benefits. An employee can use earned sick leave, vacation leave, or other paid time off to be compensated during FMLA leave. If the employee has not earned any paid time off, the FMLA does not require that the FMLA leave be paid. In order to be eligible for FMLA coverage, an employee must have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, and worked for the employer for at least 12 months. FMLA leave can be used for:

  • The birth of a child and time to bond with the newborn child;

  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care with the employee and time to bond with that child;

  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition;

  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or

  • For qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.


FMLA also allows eligible employees to take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.


So, if an employee suffers a serious health condition, he or she could be eligible for FMLA leave. However, if that serious health condition was caused by an on-the-job injury, workers compensation will apply.


About Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a state-legislated remedy afforded employees who are injured on the job. Employees who suffer an on-the-job injury may have a claim under Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Law for medical care and lost wages.


Employers in Alabama who have five or more employees are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance (or other specified assurances of payment). An employee who suffers an on-the-job injury must file a claim with the employer. The injured employee may be paid temporary total or partial disability payments, if he or she is unable to work or unable to perform all of the duties of their job. Then, once the injured employee reaches his or her maximum medical improvement, the employee may be paid partial disability payments if they have a permanent injury which prevents them from performing all of the functions of their previous job or total disability payments if they cannot work at all. The disability payments (temporary and permanent) are calculated based upon the earnings of the employee in their pre-injury job.


If an employee is unable to work due to an on-the-job injury, the employee’s time off may be counted as FMLA if it is considered a serious medical condition.


There are many other laws and programs which apply to employees who have suffered an injury (on-the-job or not) or illness, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Social Security Disability, long-term disability, and the like.


Contact one of our experienced Huntsville workers’ compensation lawyers at (256) 533-2440 today to find out if you have a claim after an on-the-job injury.