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What is the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and FMLA?

Americans have issues taking days off. In fact, surveys show that most workers end up taking only half of their paid vacation time. That’s why it’s surprising that a company might try to keep an employee from unpaid leave – especially when they may be allowed certain absences by law. What’s more, similar to paid time off (PTO), some laborers don’t feel entitled to short-term disability or family medical leave.

Do you have all the facts about or even know the difference between these two types of medical leave? What you don’t know may hurt you or your family. It’s time to get informed.

Here’s your guide to short-term disability and FMLA.

What is Short-Term Disability and FMLA

Short-term disability constitutes a temporary leave of absence. This specific type of leave relates to the individual’s inability to perform his or her own job role due to an injury or other health issue.

Family medical leave is covered under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) and includes any other temporary absences related to one’s family, but not necessarily directly to the health or wellbeing of the person taking the leave (although it may).

Who Can Use:

Short-Term Disability: An eligible employee with a doctor-certified personal injury or illness. Eligibility is generally determined by one’s employer.

FMLA: Employees that must care for a family member with serious illness or injury may be eligible for FMLA. This leave is also typically available for either parent to care for a newborn child or to arrange for a child’s adoption or foster care. Although FMLA generally applies to an employee’s family, a worker’s own health conditions may qualify him or her for FMLA, as well.

When to Use:

Short-Term Disability: Typically a worker must be employed full-time (sometimes less than) for at least 90 days to qualify. An employee may choose this option if the company offers a coverage plan that pays some portion of his or her salary during the requested absence. In some cases, short-term disability may last longer than FMLA (up to 26 weeks depending on the company), therefore this option is also ideal for those requiring extensive individual recovery.

FMLA: Unlike short-term disability, FMLA requires that workers be employed at a company for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours. For this reason, FMLA is ideal for long-term employees who may, for example, request maternity leave since the time off (12 weeks) is consistent with the average length of postpartum job absence.

How to Use:

Short-Term Disability: Non-exempt employees may need to wait a period of 7 to 14 days before they can claim short-term disability. In some cases, companies may require employees to exhaust all sick time and/or PTO before they qualify. The employee must then fill out a Social Security Administration disabilities form and submit the application with a company-approved doctor’s certification. Often times, workers must also submit an additional medical insurance form to qualify for compensation.

FMLA: Similar to short-term disability, employees must provide their company with a number of forms including an FMLA eligibility form and health care certification form. Military members may be required to submit supplemental forms in addition to the standard FMLA requests.

Do you believe you were unlawfully denied family medical leave or wrongfully terminated based on your absence? Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. for a free consultation regarding your FMLA rights.

Want to learn more about your rights under the FMLA? Download our free eBook below.

Understanding FMLA
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