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Exploring Medical and Disability Leave from Work

Episode 29

Exploring Medical and Disability Leave from Work

Posted January 22, 2024
Cassidy Clement , Michael Kerrigan
Interactive Brokers

Employees can become injured or sick on the job, so what are the options? Who qualifies? Will they still get paid? IBKR Human Resources Director, Michael Kerrigan joins Cassidy Clement, Senior Manager of SEO and Content to discuss medical and disability leave from work.

Summary – Cents of Security Podcasts Ep. 29

The following is a summary of a live audio recording and may contain errors in spelling or grammar. Although IBKR has edited for clarity no material changes have been made.

Cassidy Clement 

Welcome back to the Cents of Security podcast. I’m Cassidy Clement, Senior Manager of SEO and Content at Interactive Brokers. Today, I’m your host for our podcast and our guest is the Human Resources Director at Interactive Brokers, Michael Kerrigan.  

We’re going to discuss medical and disability leave from work. Employees can become injured or sick on the job. So what are the options? Who qualifies and will they still get paid? We’ll discuss all that and more. Welcome to the program. Sure. So if an employee becomes injured, disabled or sick on the job, what types of leave are allowed here in the United States? 

Michael Kerrigan 

Well, if we’re talking about an individual works for the company, I think that the primary thing people should do when this does happen and when this occurs is to have a conversation with their HR staff. Because there are a multitude of different types of coverages. States are becoming more and more in these paid leave plans especially recently. I think we’re probably close to 9 different states that have it now and it’s just continuing growing. So it’s beyond just federal coverage. It’s also now we’ve gotten into states who actually instituted paid leave plans. You know, like state of Connecticut. 

State of Connecticut has a separate plan that basically now requires payment for a certain type of leaves of whether you’re sick, and it’s all based on length of injury, like a length of illness or sickness or injury or recovery. Anything less than five or six days is typically, unless you are spending the night in the hospital, or spend the whole time in the hospital, probably would be covered under vacation. But if you do spend the whole night, then disability coverage would kick in.  

But if it was just a short, I was sick, I had COVID, you know, a lot of people had COVID and I was only out for three or four days, that would not be covered by in most disability plans. Unless, again, you’re admitted into a hospital. But there’s many different plans, you know, they have FMLA, which is unpaid leave. The main thing is to kind of focus why you have these conversations is, you know, you want to certainly look at a plan that protects your job. There’s many types of leaves that, you know, if you exhaust and you don’t have those leaves available because some of those leaves are based on coverage of how long you’ve been with the company. You know, so FMLA probably wouldn’t come into play unless you’re with the company for a year.  

Some of these other plans don’t have a requirement that you need to be here for a long period of time, so the main thing I encourage people is if they know they’re going to be sick, if they know they have a planned surgery where they’re going to be out for a while or whatever the case is, they should have a conversation with their benefits or HR person to kind of get the full picture of what the company offers, what’s available to them, etc.,. They do have experts, whether it’s in house or whether talking to their broker that would provide them additional information to allow them and kind of get a good landscape of what options are available. Because there are, there are quite a lot especially this day and age that protect individuals. Some may be paid plans, some may be unpaid plans, but there are a lot of protections for staff so they can have the comfort to know that when they do return they have a job. 

Cassidy Clement 

So in my research I’ve seen mandatory leave, voluntary leave, disabled veteran leave, etc. How do those and others differ? 

Michael Kerrigan 

They’re based on the coverage. Some of those plans are protected, sme of those plans are not protected. You know, you have family medical leave. Some of those plans differ in length of terms, length of time, like FMLA, is up to 12 weeks. But you know, there’s some caveats to that. So it’s actually a rolling 12 weeks. So someone could not just be out for a full 12 weeks, they could have intermittent FMLA, where they took two days, a week to be off and they were covered and then as long as for the whole people.. some people manage to have it, you know, FMLA just continuance coverage just because they didn’t exceed the limit over a 12-week period and could have it for a full year or more than a full year. Other plans like military leave are covered even for an injury or for military service.  

You also have voting leave, we have jury duty leave. There’s a domestic violence leave that’s taking traction that is protected leave. Sick leaves. Not all companies have protected sick leave, but there is sick leave that covers specific for injuries. And then the one thing that people forget about is bereavement leave, right? You know, obviously these are the different types of coverage that come into play that people should consider when looking for employment, right? What factors come of that? Because these do protect your job, these are available for most companies and some people forget about it until they need it, but it is good for people to do a little investigation before they join a company. 

Cassidy Clement 

So in all of your comments there, you noted some key words or key phrases when talking about medical and disability leave. And those were FMLA or Family Medical Leave Act. Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA. And then like Workmens’ Comp. If you could, breakdown those acts or phrases or leaves if you will for our listeners, please. 

Michael Kerrigan 

Sure. So I’ll go backwards from what you said. So Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance all companies have. They’re required to have for employment of over I believe it’s either 5 or 50 employees. So you’ve worked for relatively large companies, you have that coverage. It’s broken down by state. Even if you work remotely and work at home, you’re covered. So you know, in this day and age in the remote world, if I’m home and I fall during my work period of time and I injure myself, that is covered under Workmens’ Compensation. Basically it’s income supplement. 

It includes medical expenses, so let’s say, I don’t know. You were at the office and you closed the file cabinet on your finger and you broke your finger. Workers’ Compensation is not just coverage for the time you don’t be paid, it also is coverage that if you had to pay $300-400 out of pocket because that was the copay, Workmens’ Compensation could bridge that and basically reimburse you for that piece. You know, and every company has it. Not all plans are there. The Workers’ Compensation for paying while you’re out, again is incentivizing you to get back to work once the injury is fully recouped.  

And then one of the things you mentioned was American Disability Act. So this is a protection, right? This is a protection for those who have a disability. And it’s basically allowing companies or making companies provide reasonable accommodation, as well as also prohibiting discrimination against people who have disabilities. So similar to, you know, when we have race discrimination, gender discrimination, things like that, there is a disability to discrimination.  

So you couldn’t not hire someone who is in a wheelchair to be an accountant, right? You couldn’t say, well, they can’t do the job because they’re in the wheelchair, right? If you’re disabled, you have this protection and it’s utilized in many cases, you know, to ensure that recruiting staff aren’t discriminating.  

It’s also a method for HR to kind of allow staff to give accommodations. Let’s say I had bad eyesight and everybody used this certain type of monitor and I needed a different monitor. When you come in and you have this eyesight, you talk to HR, hey, for me to really do my job, I need this specific type of monitor that enhances the font to allow me to see it better. And if it’s a reasonable accommodation, we should be, companies should be adhering to it. You know, if it cost $1,000,000 then that would be considered not reasonable so they wouldn’t be able to do it. But if it’s a reasonable cost and reasonable  accommodation, companies can do it.  

We’ve had cases, not at this company, but other companies where drivers required because their lower extremities weren’t in full function, they still wanted to drive a car and there was nothing preventing them to drive the car as long as they had this type of equipment. In order to do the brakes and things like that. And that would be considered a reasonable accommodation if it was cost effective for them to do it because, whether their income or their value that that person brought into the environment could be done.  

And then the last one is FMLA. So the FMLA is a big one. The FMLA is a federal law that entitles eligible employees of certain employers to take unpaid leave. It is job protected. It could be up to 12 weeks as I mentioned before, but is also available for intermittent leave. And they’ve added enhancements to this plant. So it’s not just if you get sick or if you get injured or whatever the case. It’s also if you have to take care of someone else, like whether it’s an elderly family member or child family member or if you wanted to take some time off because of adoption care or you wanted to take some time off if your spouse had a baby and needed some extra help. All those things would come under FMLA. 

Cassidy Clement 

So who would qualify for some of these types of leave that we’ve talked about today? I mean, you mentioned a few scenarios for FMLA, but who exactly would qualify for that? Are there different minimums as an employee? 

Michael Kerrigan 

So the minimum for the employee for FMLA is they have to be with the company for the year. So as long as you’re with the company for the year, you are eligible to.. Well, let me caveat to that. So it’s a year or 1,250 hours a year. So once you hit one of those two, whichever is sooner plateaued, then you would be eligible to use and qualify for FMLA. For ADA, there is no real specifics. I’s essentially if you qualify for any or you have any sort of disability, whether it’s eyesight, whether it’s mental awareness, whether it’s a physical disability or a mental disability, you would qualify. And the only thing you need to show is some valid reason what you’re looking for accommodation so it’s a valid. It’s hard in this day and age without them coming to tell you. You can’t make an assumption that they can’t do the job. As long as they can do the job, the disability doesn’t make a difference.  

Cassidy Clement 

So are employees jobs kind of held if they have to go on these leaves like our employers required to hold a job for the employee when one would take a leave? 

Michael Kerrigan 

Yes, majority of all the policies will have job protection. However, there’s always the exception. If you’re a performance issue prior to going on disability or prior to going on FMLA, it doesn’t mean that they can’t terminate you while you’re on FMLA. You throw caution to the wind because it’s very hard to defend, but it doesn’t mean that ultimately something can’t happen to you. But you know most of these plans and leave plans are designed to give you some job protection.  

And it doesn’t mean that you have to come back to the job that you left in. It just means you have to come back to a job that’s equivalent in pay or equivalent in stature. So as long as there’s some job, it doesn’t have to be that exact job. So if you were out for FMLA for 12 weeks and the company went through some significant restructuring and you came back and your job disappeared, as long as you offer them a job that was similar in pay, similar in stature, similar in the type of work that would cover it. 

Cassidy Clement 

So how about during that time paying for any benefits? Does the employee retain that during their time at least? 

Michael Kerrigan 

So that is something probably each company probably handles differently. Most companies would still.. so companies like us where we don’t have premiums for some medical costs, which is the benefit for Interactive Brokers, is not available through a lot of companies. So a lot of companies, what they would do is that you would still be responsible for paying some of those premiums. Whether you write a check each month and keep that cost down and they’re able to cover that or if you’re not able to afford that, what would happen is they would do some deductions once you returned to cap up or catch up for whatever you didn’t pay while you’re out. But you’re still required to maintain those benefit costs and pay those costs while out on leave. 

Cassidy Clement 

So within the medical versus disability leave or you were saying FMLA, are the employers still required to pay the employees or does that vary by the type of leave? 

Michael Kerrigan 

It varies by the type. Like short term disability, they would pay.. short term disability is based on the company’s structure and design. 

Like our plan. I think our plan is very favorable where you get salary continuance, but most companies do not offer that. It would be a percentage of up to a certain dollar amount. Some plans offer levels depending on the salary the person earns or the premium amount or make you pay for it. Some companies offer basic disability where there is no cost to you but you’re paid up to a certain period. And then you have a supplemental insurance after. So it all it all depends on the plan. And then you also have where the state comes in like California, Connecticut, New York, there’s several other states that have paid leave plans that would offer additional income. Now accumulatively it should not ever go over what you earn in a normal basis. If it does, then that creates a challenge where some of those plans won’t cover. 

Cassidy Clement 

So what question should employees ask when they’re reviewing any of the documentation or their options before going to jump in for a type of work leave. What should they be asking themselves and their HR? 

Michael Kerrigan 

Well there are certain jobs like which leave would protect my job? What is the most that I would be able to be paid while I’m out? What am I eligible for is obviously the main one, right? You know, that eliminates probably a lot of the plans that you think you are and a lot of this depends, right? HR may not be, they can tell you what you’re eligible for.  

A lot of these plans would require doctors submitting documentation to other doctors that would authorize saying, yeah, this person qualifies. Most companies now have outsourced that process to 3rd party vendors who handle that because it is getting so complicated. So it is in this day and age becoming very complex for someone when they are injured is what truly is available. We still have people that we find out that they were out for two weeks for an injury. And they did nothing. They basically took vacation time for the two weeks, and because they didn’t either know to ask or they didn’t want to bother with it, or they had some sort of experience where some things got rejected in the past, so I highly encourage you to talk to your HR staff or your benefit staff, or, if available, talk directly to the broker that’s administering the plan and they’ll be able to provide all the options available to you. 

Cassidy Clement 

That was actually on my questions list was evaluating the leave or PTO or vacation or sick time. So is that something that some employees or employers favor over another or is that just something people look at first to just make it easier? 

Michael Kerrigan 

I think it all depends on the length, right? So if I’m going to be out for six days and short-term disability isn’t going to kick in till after the fifth day, would it be worth it for me to do all this work and effort and documentation and file to get that extra day?  

If vacation time is very important to you, then yeah. But if it’s not, then most people will probably just say just I’ll just take the six days’ vacation. Because some of these plans have probationary periods where basically you’re going to be unpaid for a period of time until it kicks in. Again, it all depends on if you’re immediately admitted to the hospital or those type of things. But you know it all depends on the employee but some employees because they don’t know.. we have a lot of employees that come from other countries that don’t have as good of plans for leave and they expect to just do whatever they have to do. And then the vice versa, there’s countries that have much better plans and coverage. Then they come here and they realize that our plans aren’t good enough. So you take it both ways, so. 

Cassidy Clement 

Well, that was really helpful. Thanks for joining us today. 

Michael Kerrigan 

Thank you. 

Cassidy Clement 

So as always, listeners can learn more about an array of financial topics for free at Follow us on your favorite podcast network, and feel free to leave us a rating or review. Thanks for listening everyone. 

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