Can a supervisor be held personally liable for an employer’s FMLA violations?


An employee who frequently missed work to seek medical attention for Type II diabetes and other problems was criticized by her supervisor in her performance review, which stated that she needed to cut down on her absences due to illness. The supervisor also recommended that she be terminated. The employee was subsequently fired by a different manager, and she sued both the employer and the supervisor individually for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Can the supervisor be held personally liable?


Yes. In a case with similar facts, Haybarger v Lawrence County, the Third Circuit ruled that the supervisor could be held personally liable because he acted in the employer’s interest while carrying out his role as supervisor; he exercised control over her employment situation; and he exercised substantial authority over the termination decision, even if he lacked final authority to fire her. Courts also have held supervisors individually liable for violations of other federal laws. For example, a federal district court in Florida allowed hotel employees’ FLSA wage claims to proceed against a hotel manager while the action against the hotel itself was stayed in bankruptcy (Bullock v LVN Prop Mgmt, LLC). The analysis in these types of cases has typically focused on whether the supervisor exercised sufficient control over the employment relationship — particularly over the decisions leading to the alleged violations.

Source: CCH WorkDay Blog: Scare tactics for compliance: teaching managers that they could be personally liable for employment law violations could encourage compliance, February 3, 2012;

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