neneed urgent answer re FMLA , etc. before April 11, 2001, please!

Please help! I was attacked by a fellow crewmember on a ship and required major spine surgery December 8, 2000, and have been on leave since then (16 weeks more or less) receiving 60% of my salary through a temporary disability plan at work. If FMLA protects my job only for "up to 12 weeks" and my recovery is taking more than 12 weeks, what do I need to know to protect my , medicaljob benefits, etc. after the 12 weeks are up? I need to know ASAP, please! My spine is not totally fused yet and my doctor and physical therapist recommend I do not go back at all to doing the same work as before. I'm afraid I will be forced to go back to work before I am fully healed in order to continue my medical insurance coverage for that and other injuries from the crime and to pay extensive medical bills and live. My doctor will approve my going back to work only 4-6 hours a day with certain restrictions and special accommodations for leaving for physical therapy 3x week plus doing the routines in the office and at home, etc., etc. I'm afraid my employer will try to change my status from a "salaried full time" employee to an "hourly" basis and I will lose my medical benefits, etc. by working only part time, not to mention the negative effects work will have on my recovery from the spine surgery. If the FMLA only protects my job for 12 weeks, my employer may even FIRE me for not returning at the end of 12 weeks. They have not been very accommodating prior to my surgery - they even threatened my job for going to physical therapy and to subpoened court dates against my attacker in the past. I have been receiving 60% of my salary from a temporary disability plan I have through my employer, but if the doctor says I can work 4-6 hours a day, that may eliminate my eligibility for that. They do not make reimbursements for "partial" temporary disability. Don't I still qualify for those benefits as long as I am "unable to fulfill the requirements of my job" as defined by my employer (working 40+ hours per week)? If not, I may have to go back to a job not recommended by my doctor or physical therapist. If my employer has never paid me MORE than my salary when I work MORE hours, can they now decide to pay me LESS salary if I have to work fewer hours for health reasons? I'm also afraid my employer will think they can get away with paying me for part time yet expecting me to complete a full days work. My job has many deadlines which I think they will still expect to be met in fewer hours. I have a meeting with my employer on April 11 and must have some knowledge re my choices to protect my health, job, medical and other benefits before going into that meeting. Please help! Thanks so much in advance!!!!

1 answer  |  asked Apr 9, 2001 3:36 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Neil Klingshirn
ADA and Workers comp may help

First, consult a Florida attorney. Your matter is serious and you can only get legal advise from an attorney in your state.

That said, you should be eligible for workers compensation benefits if your injury happened at work or arose out of your employment. It sounds like it did. If you have not filed for workers compensation, do so immediately.

Workers compensation will provide lost wage protection, but it may not help you keep your job open. To do that, use up your FMLA time. Then, if you need more time, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might help. If you are disabled but can return to work within a defined period of time, the ADA may require your employer to provide a leave of absence.

If workers comp does not cover your lost wages while you are on leave, your short term or long term disability plans might. Ask your employer for copies of both. Review them with an attorney.

Finally, the salaried employee status probably will not help you if your employer returns you to work part time. Again, check with a Florida attorney on this.

I hope this helps.

posted by Neil Klingshirn  |  Apr 10, 2001 7:47 PM [EST]

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