Q: Can I go on short-term disability while my employer is not allowing me to work in the situation I describe below?

My contracting company told me not to work while my contract is pending budget approval with the client. They said they would have an answer about the status of my contract by "the start of next week." I replied and asked HR if I still have health insurance while my contract is pending. HR responded with "Your employment is still active, but there is an hours worked minimum to remain eligible for benefits." They sent this response to me on Tuesday (today) around 4 pm. I take their response to mean that I don't have benefits because they aren't allowing me to work the number of necessary hours to keep my benefits. I have a serious medical condition that needs treatment and could get a doctor's note stating that I need to go on short-term disability. Can I go on disability as a way to have health insurance while HR and the client are preventing me from working and keeping my benefits?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Licensed in California

A: In California, short-term disability insurance (SDI) is a state-mandated program that provides partial wage replacement for employees who are unable to work due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. To be eligible for SDI, you must have paid into the program through payroll deductions and meet certain medical criteria.

If you have a serious medical condition that prevents you from working, and your doctor is willing to provide a note stating that you need to go on short-term disability, you may be eligible for SDI benefits. However, it's important to note that SDI is not a form of health insurance; it only provides partial wage replacement.

Your eligibility for health insurance through your employer is a separate issue. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers with 50 or more full-time employees are required to offer health insurance to employees who work an average of at least 30 hours per week. If your employer is preventing you from working the necessary hours to maintain your health insurance, you may have grounds for a legal complaint.

Given the complexity of your situation, I strongly recommend consulting with an employment law attorney who can review the specifics of your case and advise you on your best course of action. You may also want to contact the California Employment Development Department (EDD) to inquire about your eligibility for SDI benefits.

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