Posted by Tamara
If a Utah employee is on short term disability for 11 weeks, can he or she be terminated for being away from work too much? Is short term disability restricted to only once a year, or can a worker utilize benefits more than once per 12 months?
The first question addresses job security. Short term disability benefits do not guarantee an employee’s job. It is possible for a worker on disability to be terminated. The benefits would continue, but the employee would no longer have a job.
If, however, the employer counts the leave as FMLA, the situation changes. FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. When an employee returns from FMLA leave, the employer must present him or her with the same job or with a position comparable in salary, working conditions and benefits. The worker in the question would have only 1 more week of benefits.
Employers can count short term disability towards FMLA, but must notify the employee in writing prior to any leave being taken. After the employee goes on short term disability or after he or she returns to work, the employer cannot retroactively charge the leave toward FMLA.
In most cases, employees can be on short term disability more than once a year, provided they haven’t yet reached the limit specified by the plan. Short term disability is private insurance and plans can vary from company to company depending on which plan is purchased. The standard in the United States is to offer 13 to 26 weeks of benefits per year. So, the employee in question would be eligible for 2 to 15 additional weeks of benefits.
There are five states, though, that have established their own state-level mandatory short term disability laws. In these states, (California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island), the answers to these questions may be different.
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