FMLA law defines “key employee” status

Here’s a case that underscores what FMLA regulations call a “key employee” – a salaried, eligible employee who’s among the highest-paid 10% of all company employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s worksite.

Under FMLA laws, an employer may refuse to reinstate an employee if the employee’s absence would cause “substantial and grievous injury” to the organization. In this case, a risk manager was identified as such and advised that her position might not be available when she returned from FMLA leave.

Sure enough, she got fired and sued, claiming she didn’t fit the definition in FMLA regulations of a “key employee.” She documented that 10% of employees earned more than she did. And she produced time cards showing that she wasn’t being paid for a full 40-hour week when she took time off.

Get your facts straight

With solid evidence that she wasn’t among the company’s highest-paid 10% and that her status as a salaried employee was questionable, the court said she was probably misclassified.

This case is a good reminder that you need to know FMLA regulations and get your facts straight. If you don’t, your adversary will, and you’ll lose your day in court.

Cite: O’Grady v. Catholic Partners Services, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 00 C 7144, 2/11/02

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