Last time I talked about how to determine if an employee is a “key employee” under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This time, we’re going to talk about the actual steps you need to take in order to invoke this exemption.
There are very specific, mandatory notice requirements that apply. 29 C.F.R. Section 825.219(a) requires an employer to notify the employee of the employee’s status as a “key employee,” that it may deny reinstatement following FMLA leave if it determines that substantial and grievous economic injury will occur, and the potential consequences with respect to the maintenance of health benefits. This requirement may be met by checking off the appropriate provision on the DOL’s model “Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities,” WH-381. (Are you using the DOL’s model forms? If not, why not? They’re actually pretty good – and I have never seen an individualized employer-prepared form that was any better! In fact, most employer-prepared forms that I’ve seen have various problems. Big ones.)
The employer should give this first notice as soon as it is able to determine that the employee is a key employee. Hopefully, this should happen when the employee gives notice of the need for leave, but may occur after the leave begins if the employer needs time to make that determination. Please note that if the employer fails to give timely notice, the employer will not be able to deny restoration – even if there is substantial and grievous economic injury!!!