It's very important for an employee to have the ability to work, an obvious cornerstone in getting hired and keeping a job. When something happens so that you are no longer able to work, it is called a dis-ability. Disabilities come in many different types. You might be physically disabled, mentally disabled or even have an emotional crisis that disables you from working.
If you are disabled and can't work, you and your family will suffer severe financial consequences. At first, your pay may continue, but once you run out of sick leave, your wages will stop and you may even be terminated from employment. Disability insurance is a type of insurance that reimburses you for wages you lose when you are out of work on a short or long term disability. Some government programs – like Social Security – offer benefits to those suffering from long-term disabilities. However, none are intended to specifically cover loss of wages for short-term disabilities in Texas. Still, there are a number of federal and a few state laws that relate to short-term disability coverage in Texas.
Disability Insurance in Texas
Americans' insurer is the Social Security Administration. It offers retirement insurance on a pay-as-you-go basis for virtually everyone employed legally in the United States. The way it works is simple. Your employer withholds a percentage of your pay that goes into the Social Security fund. When the time comes and you reach retirement age, you receive a monthly stipend from Uncle Sam, aka the Social Security Administration. For most Americans, this is the only retirement income they can count on.
But the Social Security program also offers a disability insurance program. In fact, the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the big guns in the array of federal programs providing financial help to people with disabilities. Both of these programs are managed by the Social Security Administration with the intent of assisting individuals with disabilities that make them unable to work. The Social Security disability program pays benefits to a disabled worker only if he has worked long enough and paid Social Security tax long enough to be covered. The Supplemental Security Insurance program pays disability benefits based on financial need.
Read More: How to Apply for Temporary Disability Benefits in Texas
Short-Term Disability in Texas
While Texas employees who pay into Social Security are eligible for these disability benefits like everyone else, they hardly classify as short-term. Generally, the SSA pays monthly disability benefits to people who have been disabled and, because of the disability, unable to work for a year or more. No short-term disability benefits are offered by the SSA or the federal government.
Some states step in and offer short-term disability insurance to supplement the federal SS long-term disability program. California, for example, requires that employees get short-term disability insurance (SDI) as part of their benefits. Employees themselves pay for the short-term disability program in California through deductions taken from their pay. Then, when they are unable to work for a temporary period because of injury or disability (including pregnancy), they get benefits. When an employee is eligible for short-term disability insurance in California, she usually collects benefits twice a month and gets some 55 percent of the wages she received during her highest-paid calendar quarter of the base period. Since no taxes are due on this, the actual value is more than it seems.
However, Texas does not offer short-term disability nor does it mandate that its employers give that benefit to employees. That doesn't mean that some employers don't offer short-term disability insurance to their top staff or that an employee can't go out on the private market and purchase this coverage. But not all employees in Texas are likely to do this. Before you head out to buy short-term disability insurance, check the insurance you are offered at work as well as your own private healthcare insurance. You may already be covered. Typically short-term disability benefits last about six months, but individual policies vary.
Other Texas Disability Laws
Not all disability laws provide benefits. While disability insurance of all types is intended to replace income lost when you are unable to work, it doesn't offer any job protection. In many circumstances, an employer is legally allowed to fire an employee who is on disability. Some disability laws protect a disabled employee's job.
The most important law in this area is the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law requiring employers to give employees at least 12 weeks of leave a year for their own or their family's medical issues. While the FMLA requires only unpaid leave, an employee receiving disability benefits can go on FMLA leave. Only companies with 50 or more employees are included in FMLA, and workers must have been there for at least a year. This law applies in Texas as well as all other states.
Your employer cannot fire you for taking FMLA leave. And when you get back, you must find your former job or one substantially like it waiting for you. Don't exceed the 12 weeks, however, because your protection evaporates.
Maternity Leave in Texas
No law enacted by the state of Texas law requires that an employer give a woman maternity leave when she is having a baby. However, the FMLA does provide for parental leave, so a woman in a company covered by the FMLA can take maternity leave.
And one Texas law, the Texas Employment Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. This has been held to include discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth. Under the act, women who are pregnant must be given the same rights as any other employee who has a different type of temporary disability. The act is applicable only to companies with 15 or more employees.
Workers Compensation in Texas
If you are injured on the job and that injury is why you have a short-term disability in Texas, workers compensation insurance might just be the short-term disability coverage you need. Workers' compensation is an insurance program required by all states, including Texas, to provide benefits to employees who are injured on the job. As a general rule, employees who are injured on the job are eligible for workers' compensation benefits no matter who was a fault – the employee herself, the employer, a coworker or someone else.
The injury doesn't have to actually happen at the company's location. As long as it relates to your job duties, it is probably covered. Employees are covered if injured while traveling on business, doing a job-related errand, or even attending a required social function of the company. There are some exceptions. Workers compensation won't cover injuries that happened because an employee was intoxicated or using illegal drugs.
While workers compensation coverage is best known for paying medical bills, including all hospital and medical bills that are necessary to diagnose and treat an employee's on-the-job injury, it is actually a much larger program. It doubles as short-term disability insurance. That is, workers compensation provides disability payments to compensate for lost wages for the period that you are not able to work. Usually, this comes out to about two-thirds of your regular salary. Sometimes, the insurance will also cover rehabilitation and retraining.
- Social Security: Benefits for People with Disabilities
- Disability Secrets: California Short Term Disability Overview
- Social Security: Short Term Disability
- Nolo: Can You Be Fired From a Job While on Leave With Disability?
- BLR: Texas Maternity and Pregnancy: What you need to know
- Disability Secrets: Maternity Leave Rights in Texas
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.