How Long Must My Job Be Held When on Temporary Disability?

Know your rights around temporary disability and job security.
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A temporary disability can happen at any time to any person, and when it happens it may impact your ability to return to work immediately. You may have to take medical leave from work or go on short-term disability. Depending on your temporary disability and the communication you have with your employer when you leave, it will help determine whether your job will be held and for how long. It is important to understand that there is a difference between taking medical leave, obtaining short-term disability and receiving workers’ compensation as it relates to your job security.

Family and Medical Leave Act

    If you have a temporary disability and leave work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your job is secured for 12 weeks. Under the federal law, it prohibits employers from terminating an employee who is out of work due to a physical condition. Some employers may offer a more extended schedule, but the minimum is 12 weeks. FMLA is also only required for employers with 50 or more employees, and there are other restrictions that apply, such as having worked full-time with the employer for 12 months or 1,250 hours worked for the previous 12 months for part-time workers. Under this law, employers also do not have to pay employees during the time of leave, but other benefit coverage like medical coverage is maintained.

Short-Term Disability

    If your temporary disability qualifies for short-term disability, you are entitled to a portion of your normal wages. Short-term disability does not guarantee job reinstatement when you are ready to return to work, unless you leave under FMLA in tandem. Obtaining short-term disability also requires proper medical documentation and, depending on your state, you may have had to work a certain length of time -- 30 days to six months in order to qualify.

Maternity Leave

    Maternity leave is a temporary disability many women face in their careers. Some women with complicated pregnancies may have to take time off from work prior to the delivery of a baby as a medical need. Under maternity leave, an employee's job is also secured for 12 weeks with FMLA. Under the law, your employer is obligated to offer you the same job you held or a similar one with the same pay when you return.

Workers' Compensation

    Your temporary disability may be a result of an injury at work. Under these circumstances, you may qualify for workers' compensation for the time you are unable to work. It also covers medical expenses resulting from the work-related injury, but your employer is under no legal obligation to keep your job open for you. The only exception is if you leave under FMLA. It is advised to work with your employer and keep in contact with him regarding your job status and your disability recovery for any plans to return to work.

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