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You could personally pay for FMLA violations

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some federal labor laws provide extra incentive for managers to understand how to administer them. The FMLA is one of those laws. It provides for individual liability for those who are responsible for approving FMLA leave and ensuring the employer follows the law on leave and reinstatement.

That’s a big deal. It means managers—and HR staff!—can be held personally responsible for FMLA mistakes, potentially costing them the loss of their own personal funds.

Recent case: Julie was by all accounts a good employee with a solid performance record. She also had an alcohol problem. When she was arrested for public drunkenness, she apparently realized she needed treatment.

As her court date approached, she requested time off to attend the hearing and check into an alcohol treatment facility. The company president approved her leave and told her all she needed to do was fax in her treatment dates.

Julie went to court and was ordered to begin treatment immediately. She sent her employer the information. Then the company president fired her.

Julie sued, alleging interference with her rights to FMLA leave and other claims. She also sued the president personally.

The court said that claim could go forward, putting the president’s personal assets at risk in addition to those of the company. (Diaz v. Saucon Valley Manor, No. 12-0433, ED PA, 2013)

Final note: To be personally liable under the FMLA, a manager must “exercise supervisory authority over the employee” seeking FMLA leave and “be responsible in whole or in part for the alleged violation.” Any­­one with the power to hire or fire likely qualifies if they exercise that authority when the employee is entitled to FMLA leave or reinstatement.

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