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Ask The Insurance Decoder

Lynne Lucio

Lynne Lucio

Q.  I’ll be having surgery soon and will be off work for about six weeks.  My HR Department says I’m eligible for FMLA but FMLA does not pay me while I’m off work.  I don’t have disability coverage and only have about three weeks of sick and vacation leave available.  Is it true that FMLA leave is unpaid leave?—Carrie S., Phoenix, AZ

A.  Unfortunately, federal FMLA leave only requires an approved FMLA leave to be unpaid.  If the employee has accrued sick, vacation or PTO leave available, the law permits the employee to take that pay during their time off.  Some states have state FMLA which may have different and more generous rules than the federal regulation offers.  There are a few states that even offer paid state FMLA leave.
Some employers offer leave donation to their employees who may need paid time off for an illness.  Check with your HR Department to see if your employer offers this type of benefit.  Generally when this type of benefit is offered, the donating employee can only donate annual (vacation) leave, (not sick leave) up to a certain limit.  Once an employee has donated annual leave to another employee, the donated leave then belongs to the recipient of the leave, even if they do not have to use all of it for the reason it was donated.  Unused, donated leave is generally never returned to the donor.

ASK The Insurance Decoder © Copyright 2012, Lynne Lucio.  All rights reserved. 
Lynne Lucio, the author of The Insurance Decoder:  How to Maximize Your Health Insurance Benefits, Minimize Out-Of-Pocket Expenses and Stay One step Ahead of Your Insurance Company, has been a health insurance professional for over 20 years.  As an insurance insider, Lynne learned how to decipher the medical claims labyrinth and developed the specific and practical knowledge of the claims process.  Throughout her career, Lynne has shared her expertise with thousands of insured consumers, helping them resolve complicated health claims while showing them how to take full advantage of their health insurance benefits.  The depth and breadth of Lynne’s knowledge of the topic encompasses not only the claims process but also the laws that influence and regulate health coverage, including ERISA, COBRA, FMLA, USERRA, HIPAA and others.  Lynne provides consulting services to covered individuals and writes about health insurance issues on (  For more information, or to submit your own health insurance related questions, contact Lynne at  Your question may be answered in a future column.  

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