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Good news for supervisors, HR pros: No personal liability under Title VII

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s a bit of good news: You won’t lose your house or life savings just because you made the wrong call on an employee’s dis­­crimination complaint.

While some federal and state laws allow employees to personally sue their super­visors or an HR professional, that’s not the case for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Only employers can be liable for discrimination covered by that section.

Recent case: When Gaye was injured in an automobile accident on her way to work, she became ­disabled. When she lost her job, she tried to represent herself in a lawsuit alleging Title VII violations. She named a supervisor as a personal defendant.

The court threw out her case. Not only did Gaye use the wrong law to sue for a disability-related discharge (she should have used the ADA), but Title VII doesn’t allow em­­ployees to target their supervisors in a lawsuit, either. (Stancil v. Rex Hospital, et al., No. 5:12-CV-812, ED NC, 2013)

Final note: Under what circumstances can a supervisor or HR professional be liable personally? It’s possible under both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the FMLA, as well as under state common law c­overing such claims as libel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

To be on the safe side, make sure your employer carries insurance that offers indemnity for personal liability or purchase your own coverage.

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