If you miss work because of an illness or injury, you may be entitled to compensation. If you are injured on the job, your employer's workers' compensation coverage will kick in, providing some income replacement, payment for medical treatment, and perhaps even retraining. However, if you suffer an injury or illness that isn't work-related, workers' compensation doesn't protect you. But you may be entitled to sick leave benefits or coverage under a short-term disability program.
Many employers offer paid sick leave as a job benefit. If your employer is one of them, you can get paid for your time off as long as you meet all the requirements of the program. For example, if your employer doesn't advance sick leave to employees, you will be limited to the amount of paid leave you have accrued. Similarly, if your employer requires employees to give notice if they need sick leave for a foreseeable purpose (such as childbirth or planned surgery), you will have to follow those rules. Although you may be entitled to unpaid Family and Medical Leave, you can use your employer's paid leave plan only if you meet the requirements of that plan.
Short term disability benefits pay a portion of the employee's salary if the employee is temporarily unable to work due to injury, illness, or pregnancy. Short-term disability benefits generally cover only off-the job disabilities; work-related injuries are covered by workers' compensation instead.
You might be entitled to benefits in several ways. A handful of states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) require these benefits, paid either through a state fund or through a policy purchased by the employer. Most employees in these states are covered by these temporary disability insurance (TDI) programs. If you work in a different state, your employer may have purchased a policy voluntarily. Some employees purchase their own short-term disability plan.
Regardless of how you are covered, these plans follow the same general framework. You are entitled to receive a percentage of your regular salary for a set period of time, commonly three to six months. Many plans have an initial waiting period when you are not eligible for benefits (seven days is typical). The claims process, amount you will receive, duration of benefits, and other details are all determined either by state law or by the terms of the plan.
If your claim for benefits is denied, you may want to consult with an experienced disability lawyer. A lawyer can help you evaluate your claim and decide whether to file an appeal with your disability insurer. Our site provides a directory of disability lawyers in your area.