The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on March 17, 2016 that an employer’s Human Resource Director could be held individually liable for Family and Medical Leave Act violations (FMLA). The FMLA applies to employers who employ fifty (50) or more employees within a 75 mile radius. The Court based its rational on the fact that the Human Resource Director had enough control over the employee’s job and enough input into the employee's hiring to qualify as an “employer” under the statute.
The Court noted that an individual can be liable under the FMLA if they are an “employer” which the Court defined as “any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of the employer to any of its employees.” The Court relied on the fact that the Human Resource Director exercised control over the employee’s schedule and conditions of employment which made the Director an “employer” as the Court defined that term.
While this decision was limited to the Human Resource Director, the same rational would apply to any executive, manager, or supervisor, who exercises control over an employee’s wages, hours of work, and working conditions.
It is likely that this decision will be widely accepted by other Courts throughout the United States, therefore, it is important that all covered employers train their managers regarding the requirements of the FMLA, and have appropriate policies, forms and procedures in place to ensure that employee’s rights under the FMLA are protected.