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Know Before You Sign: Settling Your Workers’ Compensation Claim Without Defeating Your Right to Sue Under the FMLA

Many employment cases may involve multiple different types of harm that are suffered as a result of different transgressions committed against you. Your employer, for example, may have violated the Family and Medical Leave Act or anti-discrimination laws around the same time that you suffered an injury potentially covered by workers’ compensation. Whenever your case involves multiple claims, it could make sense to settle some and pursue others. If you do, it is vital to understand fully exactly what you are releasing (in other words, giving up) as part of any settlement agreement you sign. An experienced New Jersey employment attorney can help you understand your rights and your options when this type of scenario arises.

One example in which this did happen was the case of Craig. Craig was like thousands of people across the country who have gotten hurt while on the job. He returned to work for a few days after the injury but eventually needed an extra week off to heal. After that week off, the injured market worker returned to work. Just two weeks after he returned to work, the market fired the man.

Craig eventually brought a lawsuit that accused the employer of violating the FMLA. The FMLA gives employees who need to take leave from work certain rights. Among the obligations that the FMLA imposes on employers is to notify an employee who takes leave of his rights under the FMLA statute. The man’s lawsuit contended that the market never informed him of his rights. The employer also allegedly broke the law “by not designating his leave as FMLA protected.”

The employer argued to the District Court that the worker was prohibited from bringing his FMLA lawsuit. The lawsuit was barred not because it was filed too late or suffered from some procedural flaw in the complaint but because a previous settlement barred the claim, according to the employer. When Craig was initially injured, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Craig eventually settled that claim. When he settled, he signed a “Compromise & Release” Agreement, which is common in the settlement of workers’ compensation cases. That agreement covered all of Craig’s claims arising from the workplace injury incident.

A Compromise & Release Agreement in a workers’ compensation claim is not unlike other types of releases that you might sign as part of a settlement of a civil lawsuit. Settlements can be wise and beneficial resolutions in many situations. Before you settle, though, you should make certain you understand exactly what the terms are in your settlement agreement. Particularly, you should make sure you understand exactly which potential legal claims you are forever giving up in exchange for the settlement.

In Craig’s case, he was allowed to pursue his FMLA claim. The settlement agreement he signed as part of his workers’ compensation case only covered claims arising from the workplace injury he suffered. Craig’s FMLA lawsuit arose as a result of harm he allegedly suffered as a result of the employer’s violation of federal statutory law. The release agreement didn’t mention federal statutory claims like FMLA claims, so Craig and his lawyers had correctly identified that claim as something that was allowed to go forward in court.

The skilled New Jersey FMLA attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been helping workers for many years in their discrimination, FMLA, and other employment litigation matters. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys right away to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Federal Courts Reject Employer’s Attempt to Sidestep FLSA Break Rules By Calling Its Break Policy Flexible Time, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 26, 2017

Contract’s Arbitration Provision Doesn’t Stop New Jersey Dancer from Pursuing Her Minimum Wage Lawsuit, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 16, 2017

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