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FMLA Exhausted, STD Denied... what next? Massachusetts

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  • FMLA Exhausted, STD Denied... what next? Massachusetts

    My mother passed away earlier this year, and around the same time, my father suffered a stroke. My husband and I had to move in with my father to care for him.

    My mother's death was very sudden and unexpected, and my employer suggested I apply for some FMLA leave to deal with my grief. I took her advice and was approved for approximately a 1.5 mos. of FMLA leave.

    I returned to work earlier this spring, but as the year progressed, depression and panic disorder began to set in. I began seeing a grief counselor and therapist weekly, and my therapist began trying new medications for me (SSRIs, benzos). The medication made me very sick, and I had to call in sick to work several times as a result. To this day, my therapist and I are STILL trying to figure out the proper medication.

    In August 2009, my supervisor privately recommended to me that I take some STD/FMLA time to deal with my depression. She was aware that we work in a stressful, often hostile work environment, and claimed she was concerned for my well-being. In September, she made the recommendation again, and so I applied for STD benefits and FMLA leave.

    My FMLA leave was approved, but my STD was denied. Unfortunately, my FMLA expired last week, and I had to return to work.

    I am still eligible for 500+ hours of STD; unfortunately, it has been denied by the insurance company. I am appealing, but in the meantime I have had to return to work -- against my doctor's recommendation.

    What are my options? While I appeal the STD decision, do I need to be in work? If my employer fires me/lays me off for additional absences -- am I eligible for unemployment? (I live in Massachusetts.) I would like to return to work in January 2010 but right now do not feel I can handle it.

  • #2
    STD is not leave. It is how you get paid while you are on leave. Even if you were approved for the STD tomorrow, it would not offer any job protection. STD does not provide job protection - only FMLA does. If your FMLA has been exhausted, then any additional leave, whether or not STD benefits have been approved, is at the pleasure of your employer.

    It sounds as if your employer is willing to work with you. It's not that the law says they CAN'T offer additional leave; it's only that the law will not compel them to. However, in the event that they are unable to work with you any longer, you would most likely be eligible for unemployment AFTER you are medically cleared to return to work. In MA, as with most if not all states, in order to collect UI it is necessary for you to be able to work, actively looking for work, and able to accept work if offered. So as long as you were medically unable to work, you would not be able to collect UI.

    Whether or not you "should" return to work at this point is something that you, your doctor, and your employer will need to decide.

    I'm very sorry for your loss. This must be a very difficult time for you.
    Last edited by cbg; 11-23-2009, 11:36 AM.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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