Remind supervisors: They can be held personally liable for many work-related problems

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in Employment Law

These days, lawyers who represent applicants, employees and former employees are getting creative.

Forget responding to a lawsuit containing just one simple claim. Instead, you are likely to face a complaint with dozens of separate claims, including allegations that the employer violated a score of North Carolina laws seemingly unrelated to the employment relationship.

Quite often, employees’ attorneys make sure supervisors are separately charged and individually liable. For example, lawyers are adding negligence and interference with contractual rights to their claims, suing supervisors personally.

Cite this trend during training to instill in your managers and supervisors that they need to follow the professional advice HR provides on discipline, hiring and other issues—or else face the consequences.

Recent case: Henry, who is black, sued his North Carolina state agency employer over missed promotions, allegedly unjustified disciplinary write-ups and a host of other wrongs.

He added his supervisors and managers to the lawsuit, not just as state representatives, but as individual de­­­fendants. He did this by alleging that they had violated North Caro­­lina laws concerning negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with contract.

The agency claimed sovereign immunity from liability for some of the claims, but the individual claims against the supervisors were not dismissed. The practical result is that the supervisors may end up personally liable and thus financially responsible for actions they took as state employees. (Parks v. NC Department of Public Safety, No. 5:13-CV-74, ED NC, 2014)

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