Can My Employer Make Me Use FMLA or Vacation Time While Off Work Due to an Iowa Work Injury?

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Posted by Emily Anderson

Have you recently suffered a work injury in Iowa?  Your employer may have told you that you need to use vacation time or FMLA while you are off work recovering from your injuries.  But is this actually true?

Using FMLA after an Iowa Work Injury

The short answer is “probably.”  The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a law that applies to government employees or employers who have 50 or more employees.

FMLA can be used in the following situations:

  • If an Iowa employee has a personal medical condition that prevents them from working, or
  • If an Iowa employee who is caring for a family member who has a condition that prevents them from working.

FMLA can be used by employees to be away from their jobs for up to 12 weeks.   It does not require an employer to pay wages, maintain your benefits, or provide medical care during the leave; however, it does require the employer to hold your position until your leave expires.

Workers’ compensation is different than FMLA. Under Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws, employers do have to provide medical care and wage replacement benefits when a worker gets hurt on the job.  Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws do not require an employer to hold your job open just because you had a work injury.

Different employers have different policies on whether a worker must use FMLA while out for a work injury.  In fact, sometimes it is to your benefit to use FMLA while you are out for a work injury, because it holds your job open for up to 12 weeks.

Personal Time Used During Your Time Off Due to a Work Injury

The same is true with using vacation time while off work due to a work injury.   Depending on your company’s policies, you may have to use your vacation and sick time while you are also receiving workers’ compensation.

Again, sometimes this can be a good thing—especially if you need to make up the pay gap between what you were earning while working and what you are receiving in Iowa workers’ compensation benefits.

If you are a member of a union, these matters are often spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement.  Contact your union representative for details.

Iowa Work Comp Benefits and Premiums

If the workers’ compensation carrier is telling you it doesn’t have to pay Iowa work comp benefits because you’re using sick or vacation time, challenge that.  In most cases where a doctor has you off work due to a work injury, you should still be receiving Iowa workers’ compensation benefits.

Also, if your employer pays part or all of your health insurance premium, or a portion of any other benefit like short term disability insurance, don’t assume they will continue to pay these premiums while you are off for a work injury. Typically, when you are receiving workers’ compensation checks, you are not receiving a paycheck from which your employer can deduct premiums.  You may need to make arrangements with your employer to pay your premiums separately.

If you have any questions about how FMLA, sick and vacation time, and Iowa workers’ compensation benefits intersect, please contact RSH Legal today at 1-319-774-1783.

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