Workers’ compensation is an insurance program purchased by employers to cover work-related injuries or illnesses their employees sustain. Qualified employees receive “no-fault” coverage for injuries or illnesses that result from their job, in exchange for the implied agreement not to bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. Each state oversees its own workers’ comp program, and in Mississippi, it is administered by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Most employees in Mississippi are covered by workers’ compensation, with some notable exceptions. Employers with fewer than five employees are not required to carry coverage, and coverage is not required for independent contractors, volunteers, domestic employees, and employees of religious, cultural, charitable, and other non-profit organizations. Workers compensation provides coverage for an employee’s medical expenses, a percentage of their lost wages, and coverage for a permanent disability.
Sick or injured workers in Mississippi may also qualify for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal program that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for a qualifying event. Qualifying events under the FMLA include:
- The birth of a child and/or to care for a newborn child;
- Placement of an adopted or foster child with the employee and/or to care for a newly placed child;
- To care for the spouse, child, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition;
- For the employee to deal with a serious health condition of their own that makes them unable to perform their work.
The last event – an employee developing a serious health condition that renders them unable to work – is one that may make them eligible for both workers’ comp and FMLA.
Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and FMLA
Aside from the fact that workers’ comp is a state-administered program and FMLA is a federal law, there are some significant differences between the two programs. Unlike workers’ comp, which provides for medical costs and income replacement for covered employees, leave provided under the FMLA is unpaid. Although an employer can choose to provide paid leave for an event covered by the FMLA, this is not a requirement under the law. So, employees receive no financial reimbursement for the time they miss from work when they use FMLA leave.
There are a couple other key differences between the FMLA and workers’ comp:
- Employees can take FMLA leave regardless of whether or not the serious health condition for which they are taking leave was work-related;
- FMLA protects the employee’s job while they are out on leave, and at the end of the leave, the employee must be allowed to return to his/her job or an equivalent.
No such job protection is assured if an employee misses work due to a workers’ comp-related injury. Your employer is not allowed to terminate you because you were injured on the job, or in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. But this is where the protection ends. Employees have no assurance that their employer will not lay them off, eliminate their position, or otherwise terminate them while they are out of work due to an on-the-job injury that is covered by workers’ comp.
When FMLA and Workers’ Compensation Overlap
An employee may very well suffer an illness or injury that qualifies as both “work-related” for the purposes of receiving workers’ comp benefits as well as a “serious health condition” for the purposes of taking leave under the FMLA. When this is the case, the two programs can run concurrently. In other words, an employee can receive workers’ compensation benefits and be out on FMLA leave at the same time. Employers are generally allowed to count the time an employee takes off while receiving workers’ comp benefits as FMLA, as long as the employee’s condition qualifies for both programs, and the employer informs the employee in writing that they are using FMLA leave.
Have Further Questions about Workers’ Compensation in Mississippi? Call Reeves and Mestayer Today
While most Mississippi employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, filing a claim is a complex and confusing process, and employers often put up unnecessary roadblocks to frustrate eligible employees into giving up. At the Reeves & Mestayer, we are committed to helping workers in Mississippi recover the benefits they are entitled to when they suffer a work-related injury or illness.
Call our office today at 228-374-5151 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our office in person at your convenience.