One of our employees is unable to work for 7 weeks due to an auto accident. In Tennessee, is she entitled to disability pay under any state or federal law?
No, she is not, because neither the federal government nor Tennessee has a law providing income for short-term disability status. In fact, at this time, only five states have short-term disability laws in place: California, New York,
New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii. The Social Security Administration handles disability pay for the federal government, but they require the employee to be disabled for at least 5 months before becoming eligible.
Of those states with short-term disability, California’s plan pays the employee for the longest period: 52 weeks at 55% of their salary (limited to $728 a week). Rhode Island’s plan contains variable payments, depending on the number of dependents, and pays 60% of salary for 30 weeks. Hawaii, New York and New Jersey’s plans are all 26 weeks long.
With the short-term disability offered, some states require automatic coverage by the employer. In other states, such as Rhode Island, the short-term disability is paid for by the workers via payroll deductions.
The Pregnancy Disability Act states that if a company gives employees paid leave for other types of disabilities, that pregnant women on medical disability must receive the same benefits. There isn’t, however, a short-term disability law in Tennessee.
There are options for you to investigate, though. The Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA, may be an option for this worker. If, according to her physician, the injuries prevent her from being able to work, then she should be able to apply for up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave under FMLA.
Worker’s compensation may be another option, too. The worker may be eligible for medical benefits and disability pay if her injury occurred on the job.
Employers sometimes offer short-term disability to their workers, too. Sometimes medical insurance coverage will include short term disability as an extra–at an additional cost. Often employers will provide short-term disability, but require that the worker first use up any available vacation and/or sick leave. The human resources department or claims coordinator at the insurance company should be able to explain what options the company offers, if any. JH
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