Can an employer continue paying for benefits when I’m on unpaid leave without my agreement and then bill me for it?

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Can an employer continue paying for benefits when I’m on unpaid leave without my agreement and then bill me for it?

I went on unpaid leave 10 months ago due to pregnancy complications. I applied for short-term disability and FMLA but got denied. My employer verbally told me if I did not return to work I would be let go. Since I was close to my due date I could not return to work. I never received any paperwork from them or had any contact with them since. Until recently when I received a bill for my portion of my benefits for the last 8 months. How do I go about fighting this? Who should I contact to dispute this?

Asked on November 6, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

While you are on leave, you are still an employee--your employer has to keep paying for your benefits. But if you discontinue employment after leave without returning to work for some reasonable time, they are allowed to bill you for the benefits cost, since in that case, you effectively discontinued your employment when you first took leave (since your leave transitioned seamlessly to not being employed) and should have received benefits for that time. Moreover, if you had the benefits for those 8 months, you are not allowed to keep them without providing something in return to your employer (like continued employment)--otherwise, you need to return the value of the benefits to the employer. Based on what you write, it appears you do have to reimburse them for this; your best bet may to try to negotiate a more-afforable settlement and/or payment plan.


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