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Rest easier tonight! You can’t be held personally liable for Title VII violations

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

It’s tough being an HR professional during the worst recession in memory. Every day, you have to make tough decisions about pay, hours—even whether your co-workers get to keep the jobs that put food on their tables.

At least there’s good news from one North Carolina court: HR pros aren’t personally liable under Title VII for any mistake they might make while carrying out their job responsibilities.

Recent case: Melanie Pitrolo sued the County of Buncombe because she lost out on a promotion. She attributed the decision to sex discrimination. She sued all the managers involved in the decision—including people in HR.

The court dismissed the lawsuit against the individual managers, noting that every court that has considered the question has ruled that employees have no right to sue decision-makers individually under Title VII. (Pitrolo v. County of Buncombe, No. 1:06-CV-199, WD NC, 2009)

Note: Don’t get too comfortable. You still can be personally sued for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and the FMLA. Those laws define “employer” to include individual decision-makers.

You must therefore be doubly sure that you understand how to comply with those laws. Make a good-faith effort to keep up on the laws and regulations so employees can’t accuse you of willfully ignoring their rights.

Advice: Double-check with your employer to make sure it will cover any legal fees resulting from job-related litigation.

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