Monday, February 12, 2018

Is an Employee on FMLA Leave Entitled to Unemployment Benefits in Texas?

The question of whether an employee on FMLA leave is entitled to apply for and receive unemployment benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the issue that pits the TWC against Wichita County, Texas in a case currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court.
 
In TWC v. Wichita County, Texas, No. 17-0130, the TWC contends that an employee on FMLA leave was entitled to unemployment benefits because the employee left work, and was therefore unemployed, due to a medically verifiable illness. Wichita County, on the other hand, contends that the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA) does not apply to employed individuals on FMLA whose employment is protected by federal law.
 
Key to the Court's ruling will be a clarification of what it means to be "unemployed" under the TUCA.  Section 207.045 of the TUCA permits a person who has voluntarily left her job due to a medically verifiable illness to receive benefits.  Does an employee who exercises her right to FMLA leave become "unemployed" under the TUCA?
 
Wichita County argues that the TWC's position effectively creates a paid leave law in Texas, which the Texas Legislature has expressly and recently declined to do. 
 
Oral arguments are scheduled for February 28th.