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One of the toughest problems for employers is figuring out which law applies to a particular condition: the FMLA, workers' comp or the ADA. The relationship between the FMLA and other federal and state statutes on family and medical leave is clear: The law that provides greater benefits to the employee applies.

Workers’ comp: Keep in mind that, in most cases, workers’ comp absences also qualify as FMLA leave. That means you should promptly designate time missed for workers’ comp injuries to activate the 12 weeks of allowable FMLA leave. Otherwise, you would enable employees to take 12 weeks of leave on top of any time taken for a workers’ comp injury.

Under the FMLA, an employee has the right to reject an employer’s light-duty assignment and take the full FMLA leave as long as his or her serious health condition remains. But your workers’ comp insurer can limit or terminate claim payments if the employee refuses to accept a light-duty assignment.

ADA: An employee returning from FMLA leave may also qualify to receive reasonable accommodations based on the ADA. So you may have to modify an employee’s schedule or work environment or even permit additional time off beyond the 12 weeks of FMLA leave as required under the ADA.

State laws: In 2004, California became the first state to mandate paid family and medical leave. The law dramatically expanded family leave rights and allowed more conditions to trigger leave than the FMLA does.

California workers are guaranteed up to six weeks of paid family leave in addition to any paid leave they’ve accumulated. Employees on leave receive 55% of their wages, up to a maximum of $728 per week. The program is funded by payroll deductions averaging about $27 per year.

Eleven states have enacted family leave laws that expand on the FMLA, and many more are considering similar legislation. Contact your state labor department to check the current law in your state.

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