In Spalla v. Electronic Manufacturing Services Group, Inc. (M.D. PA 2/13/17), a federal district court in Pennsylvania concluded that managers cannot be sued individually for violating the ADA. The court noted that while the Third Circuit Court of Appeals had not expressly resolved the issue, it had commented in a prior case that it appeared that there was no individual liability under Title I of the ADA. Based upon a survey of other district court decisions, the Spalla court concluded that there is no individual manager liability under the ADA. The court’s decision in Spalla is consistent with the rulings in other Circuits.
Individual liability under the FMLA. In contrast, the Third Circuit (and other courts) have held that managers and HR can be sued individually and held liable for violations of the FMLA.
Other laws? Courts also have held that individual managers can be held liable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and USERRA (federal military leave).
Lessons for employers? I am not a big believer in the “scare” tactic when trying to motivate managers. Nevertheless, managers and HR should be aware that there is a possibility of individual liability under certain federal laws. It is also possible that there may be individual liability under applicable and comparable state laws, including state antidiscrimination laws. Most of the time in lawsuits, attorneys representing employees know that the employer has more of a so-called “deep pocket” than individual managers and, therefore, most lawsuits are typically against the employer only. However, lawyers may choose to sue managers individually in order to motivate them to put pressure on the employer to settle the claim.