FEDERAL WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAWS
April 21, 2020
Richmond and Central Virginia Work Injury Attorneys
Several federal workers’ compensation laws have been enacted to provide protections to federal nonmilitary employees and specific classes of private employees who have suffered on-the-job injuries. These laws generally cover medical expenses and lost wages for injuries that result in the disability or death of the employee. Some, however, afford employees more protections in the event that they are injured while on the job. Below are brief descriptions of just some of these federal workers' compensation laws.
The Federal Employment Compensation Act
The Federal Employment Compensation Act (FECA) provides compensation for the disability or death of an employee who is injured in the performance of his or her job duties or has suffered an employment-related disease. Federal employees are entitled to compensation for costs related to medical treatment, surgeries, or hospital services. A federal employee will receive two-thirds of his or her regular compensation during the period of disability, which is increased to three-fourths of the employee’s regular wage if the employee claims one or more dependents. The Act allows for the possibility of increased compensation if the employee is permanently disabled. The act also provides for medical expenses and job retraining for the injured or disabled employee.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FELA)
It is very important that an employer understand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An employer who has 50 or more employees is subject to this Act. To be an eligible employee, one must have worked for the employer for at least one year or over 1250 hours. FMLA entitles one up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period because of a serious health condition. An employee may elect, or the employer may require, the employee to substitute accrued paid vacation, personal leave, or sick leave during this period of time. When the employee returns to work, the employer must return the worker to his former position or an equivalent position, with equivalent employee benefits. Usually, when a worker takes FMLA leave, he does not get paid. However, "paid time off" or vacation pay or sick pay may be given if the employee has earned these benefits.
If an injured worker takes the Family Medical Leave and cannot return to work after the twelve weeks expire, generally the employer does not then have an obligation to rehire the worker at a later date. In other words, the employer is not required to hold the job open indefinitely.
The Black Lung Benefits Act
The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) provides monthly payments and medical coverage to miners who have been completely disabled due to pneumoconiosis, better known as Black Lung Disease. It also compensates family members of miners who have died from the disease. Benefits are negligible, however—only $500.50 per month for an individual miner, which is increased to $1001.00 per month if the miner has 3 or more dependents. The BLBA allows both current and former employees, as well as their surviving dependents if the employee is deceased, to file a claim.
The Jones Act
Also known as the Merchant Marine Act, the Jones Act allows seamen to receive transportation, maintenance, cure, and unearned wage benefits when they are injured while serving on a U.S. vessel. Maintenance is the value of the daily room and board the seaman would have received if he had remained aboard the vessel, and begins to accrue from the date the seaman leaves the vessel and continues until he or she receives maximum medical health. Cure refers to the payment of medical expenses until the seaman attains a state of maximum medical cure. Maximum medical cure is defined as the point after which medical treatment will no longer improve the seaman’s condition. The payment of unearned wages that the seaman would have earned if he or she had remained aboard the vessel until the end of the contract period is also required under the Jones Act. If the injury is the result of the employer’s negligence, the seaman may also sue for pain and suffering or punitive damages.
Federal Employers Liability Act (Railroad Employees)
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) of 1908 was passed in reaction to the increasing number of railroad deaths that were occurring at the turn of the century. This Act allows railroad employees to sue their employers for compensation for injuries sustained on the job as a result of the employer’s negligence. Once negligence is proven, injured employees may sue for past and future wage losses, medical expenses already paid by the employee, impaired ability to earn wages after the injury, and pain and suffering. Thus, FELA awards are often much larger than those received under standard workers’ compensation. You must file a FELA claim within 3 years of the date on which the injury occurred.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) of 1927 provides compensation and medical care coverage to employees disabled from injuries that occur on navigable U.S. waterways, or in other areas used for loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel. The Act also compensates family members of workers who have died as a result of their injuries. The LHWCA generally covers maritime and dock workers that are not covered under the Jones Act. Typically, a LHWCA covered worker is entitled to temporary compensation benefits of two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage while undergoing medical treatment, and then either to a scheduled award for injury to body parts enumerated in the United States Code or two-thirds of the lost earning capacity. The employee does not need to prove that the employer was negligent in order to receive benefits under the LHWCA.
Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was passed to compensate Department of Energy employees who became ill because of work performed at specified nuclear facilities. The Act also covers contractors, subcontractors, and certain specified vendors that worked at the same qualifying nuclear facilities. This program provides up to $250,000 in lump-sum payments and medical coverage to Department of Energy nuclear weapons employees and former employees or to their surviving family members if the employee died as a result of exposure to nuclear radiation or other toxic substance.
For more information on federal workers' compensation claims, contact Schilling & Esposito at (804) 261-1001 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-888-484-HURT to discuss your case with an experienced Richmond and Central Virginia work injury attorney or click here to fill out our free online case submission form.