FMLA and COBRA Overlap

September 1, 1994
The Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows terminating employees to continue their health insurance coverage for up to 18 months at the worker's expense. COBRA coverage is not triggered by an employee taking FMLA leave. However, COBRA coverage may be initiated when an employer learns that an employee will not be returning to work.

The result of these mandates is that employees could extend COBRA coverage by as much as 12 weeks past the COBRA 18-month period by taking FMLA leave before informing HR of the decision not to return.

If HR learns of such a plan, it should issue the COBRA notice immediately to limit the damage. Also, while a worker is on FMLA leave, employers may require updates on the employee's condition. By keeping tabs on the employee, HR may learn sooner of an employee's decision to terminate.

Personnel Journal, September 1994, Vol.73, No. 9, p. 42.