Warn managers about personal liability

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

One way to get the attention of your managers and supervisors is to warn them that they may be personally liable for breaking some state or federal laws.

Personal liability means that some or all of a jury award may be taken out of a manager’s own assets—such as a home or savings accounts. That should provide a compelling incentive for everyone to learn what the law requires.

For example, because the definition of “employer” in the FMLA and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is quite broad, some supervisors and managers have been held personally responsible. And the same is true for some job-related injuries.

Fortunately, not every federal law makes supervisors and managers potentially personally liable.

Recent case: Pauline Alexander claimed she had been terminated from her job with QVC because she was disabled. She sued the company—and a manager—under the ADA. The court rejected her claim against the manager because the ADA has a narrower definition of “employer” than do the FMLA and the FLSA. (Alexander v. QVC, et al., No. 4:08-CV-32, ED NC, 2008)

Final note: Because disabled employees are often eligible for FMLA leave, managers who make an FMLA mistake may be personally liable even if they’re clear of any ADA violations. Bottom line: Everyone must know the law and ignorance is no excuse.

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