• Stark Reminder Regarding Individual Liability Under the FMLA
  • August 20, 2013 | Author: Richard L. Hackman
  • Law Firm: Barley Snyder - York Office
  • In the recent case of Smith v Center for Organ Recovery and Education, a federal judge in Western Pennsylvania declined to dismiss a plaintiff’s FMLA claim against the company’s individual department director. As you may be aware, the FMLA provides for individual liability for violations by “corporate officers ‘acting in the interest of an employer.’ ” Courts have found generally that a supervisor can be sued individually when he or she is responsible in whole or part for the alleged violation while acting on behalf of the employer.

    In Smith, the plaintiffs alleged that the department director informed her to, among other things, have her medical restrictions lifted and immediately take FMLA leave. The supervisor also allegedly threatened to fire the employee if she did not return a month after her baby died due to premature birth. The court found plaintiff’s allegations raised an inference that the department director “carried out the functions of an employer,” even though the scope of the supervisor’s role in the decision-making process was unclear.

    This case serves as a reminder to employers and supervisors that potential liability for FMLA violations extends beyond the corporate boardroom and executive suite. Employers would be wise to use this case as a “teachable moment” with their supervisors regarding the significant stakes involved in failure to apply properly the mandates set forth in the FMLA and its regulations.