Unlike some states, Iowa does not have a set limit for the amount of time that you can be off work receiving workers comp benefits while you recover from your work injuries. Some states have a 12, 18, or 24-month limit, but in Iowa so long as you are receiving medical care which is improving your condition and have not reached MMI (maximum medical improvement) you can receive weekly TTD (temporary total disability) benefits.
Is my job protected while I am off receiving workers comp? Not necessarily.
If you qualify for the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) then your employer can run your FMLA time (generally up to 12 weeks of leave) at the same time that you are off work due to a work injury. If you miss more than 12 weeks, then your employer may terminate you. There can be additional protections under other state and federal laws such as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or through your union if you have one. For more information request a copy of our Iowa Workers' Compensation Book where we devote an entire chapter to Your Rights as an Employee Click Here. We offer our book at no cost or risk to you because we have seen far too many hard-working Iowans make a costly mistake. After all, they did not have the information they needed.
How do I qualify for FMLA?
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for a covered employer defined as an employer with 50 or more employees each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks or more in the current or preceding calendar year. Also, the employee must have worked for that employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave. If you meet the requirements then your job should be protected for up to 12 weeks.
What if I am fired after I complete medical care?
If you are fired during or after your medical care for your workers' comp claim it is very important that you speak with a qualified work injury attorney who can help explain the process, protect your rights and seek the compensation that you should receive.
Should I file for unemployment? If you have been fired and are no longer receiving TTD (temporary total disability) benefits then it is probably in your best interests to file for unemployment. Keep in mind that you cannot receive TTD and unemployment at the same time. Also, you have to be ready, willing, and able to do some type of work in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. Also, depending upon how long you were off work, you may not have enough work credits in your monetary records and be denied unemployment. However, if you have missed 3 or more quarters and received TTD during that timeframe then the unemployment office is supposed to skip those quarters and substitute then with the quarters prior to your work injury. If you are denied unemployment, you should promptly call a work comp attorney who can also help you with your unemployment matter. We offer a no-cost consultation and review of both your unemployment and work comp cases. There is no retainer or upfront fee that you have to pay for us to help you with your unemployment case if we are also representing you in your work comp. matter.
Should I apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI)? It depends upon your age, the severity of your injuries, if you have done a valid job search, etc. Overall, I would not recommend that you immediately file for SSDI for a number of reasons including:
1. In the eyes of some of our workers' compensation judges filing for SSDI too soon can significantly reduce the value of your case because it shows a lack of motivation. If you are released to return to work with restrictions, then you should do a valid job search before determining if you should file for SSDI or not.
2. The SSDI process can take several years in order to get a hearing before an administrative law judge.
3. If you are under 55 years of age it is more difficult to obtain SSDI than if you are 55 years or older.
We help our clients navigate workers comp, employment law, unemployment law, and Social Security Disability in order to achieve the best outcome for them.