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Does STD automatically mean FMLA? Indiana

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  • Does STD automatically mean FMLA? Indiana

    I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place and need a little guidance here.

    I have two scenarios.

    Scenario #1 –
    An hourly employee tells me he may need to wear a medical brace for awhile, but because we have to wear PPE safety wear in the facility, we can’t allow him to do that. If he must wear it, he’ll have to go off work and apply for our short term disability and see if it will qualify. I send him the information along with FMLA papers. He gets upset because he doesn’t want to use FMLA (we require our employees to use XX amount of vacation days with it when they first go out). On top of that his wife is expecting and he will want to use it later on. He refuses to bring back the papers (and must have decided not to opt for the brace because he is still working).

    Scenario #2 - I have an exempt employee who informed me that he would need to be out. He is having personal issues which in turn have had a medical impact on him. I send the FMLA papers to him by email because we have not been given a current address since he moved. He’s been approved for STD but I do not anything from the STD company because all the approval dates go to corporate. He has mentioned to my manager that he was approved for short term disability, but I'd have to request the information from corporate to be certain. This employee also has not returned his FMLA forms even though they were due yesterday.

    My questions are:

    We have an outside source that handles our STD’s. They do not provide us with anything but approval dates. If an employee is approved for short term disability, do we automatically consider it is covered under FMLA?

    If I am required to do that, I could apply the same thing to scenario #1 and charged the hours towards the leave, correct?

    Up to this point, I’ve required everyone, except worker’s comp people to bring in forms. Throwing the STD into the mix makes it a little more confusing. Especially if the employee won’t bring them in and yet, qualifies for STD.

    My last question is, if I must go by the STD for FMLA approval and the disability office gives an approval to XX date, but the employee is off additional time (say two weeks) and the STD office comes back and says he is only approved through the date they said, can we charge the employee with unexcused absences from that date on without FMLA forms on hand?

    Aren’t these really two separate things? One is for excused leave (FMLA) and the other is for paid benefits (STD)? Should they really be used in combination? I mean, even though the doctor sends something to the STD company, the employee has not returned the forms to us and we are not given any information on how long they believe he may be out, whether he could come back on light duty, when the appointments are...

    Seems like you should be able to separate the two and even if he was approved for STD, he did not follow what is necessary for FMLA.

  • #2
    They are definitely not the same thing. IMHO, they should run concurrently, if the condition qualifies for FMLA. Otherwise, you could have an employee out for 6 months under STD (under a non-FMLA approved leave), then he could get another 12 weeks under FMLA. That would mean off for 9 out of 12 months.

    What Scenario #1 has, IMHO, is not an FMLA-qualifying condition, but a work restriction that cannot be accommodated.

    If Scenario #2 does not return the FMLA forms, then he is subject to all attendance policies, just like anyone else. You may wish to extend some type of short-term unpaid leave of absence, but he would not have job protection under FMLA.
    Pattymd
    Senior Member
    Last edited by Pattymd; 06-05-2009, 07:57 AM.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Scenario 1 - You would be very ill-advised to decide when to allow employees to use or not to use FMLA when they have a qualifying condition. First, the employer is obligated to extend FMLA as appropriate, and secondly, you want to be able to control the amount of leave time an employee takes. You can always extend non-FMLA leave after FMLA is exhausted but make that decision after FMLA is used up.

      FYI, I do think employee's condition may qualify as a "serious medical condition" and therefore fall under the FMLA but since we don't know why the brace is being required, we can't know one way or the other.

      Scenario 2 -the employee hasn't returned the FMLA paperwork and hasn't given the employer his new address and contact info? Well, something is up, that's for sure. Again, I'd want more info before deciding what to do but I'd certainly be considering sending him another email and a letter to his last known address, saying if he doesn't contact the employer AND return the FMLA paperwork by [date], his employment will be terminated.

      We have an outside source that handles our STD’s. They do not provide us with anything but approval dates. If an employee is approved for short term disability, do we automatically consider it is covered under FMLA?
      You are entitled to know why an employee is off work and you NEED to know whether the condition qualifies as FMLA, so no, I would not automatically consider it FMLA. And candidly, I wouldn't have an arrangement such as you have with your outside STD source where you don't get any information except approval dates.

      Aren’t these really two separate things? Yes. I would absolutely require employees to complete FMLA paperwork in full. Whether or not they're eligible for STD benefits is irrelevant. Plus you don't receive the necessary information from your TPA to determine whether the FMLA applies.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Beth3 View Post
        FYI, I do think employee's condition may qualify as a "serious medical condition" and therefore fall under the FMLA but since we don't know why the brace is being required, we can't know one way or the other.
        Beth3 knows more about this than I do.
        I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

        Comment


        • #5
          If an employee qualifies for STD, then the employee has a serious health condition. The problem I have with the question on the FMLA paperwork is that if the employee was approved for STD than a doctor approved it. Therefore, the notification of a serious health condition was received by someone in authority to approve STD in your organization.

          You do not need the "official" DOL paperwork to approve FMLA - especially when it the employee's own health condition.

          We always tell our clients that a simple doctors note is enough to trigger approval of FMLA. No need to make FMLA more administratively burdensome than it already is.

          Comment


          • #6
            If an employee qualifies for STD, then the employee has a serious health condition.

            Althought that is *probably* true, it depends entirely on the eligibility requirements of the STD policy. It is not an absolute guarantee.

            Therefore, the notification of a serious health condition was received by someone in authority to approve STD in your organization.

            And where is it written that STD is approved by someone in the employer's heirarchy? Frequently approval is made by the STD carrier.

            You do not need the "official" DOL paperwork to approve FMLA - especially when it the employee's own health condition.

            Although it is true that the law does not require it, the law does give the employer the right to require it.
            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.

            Comment

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