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Managers—Even HR Managers!—May Be Personally Liable for Disability Harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

As if you don’t have enough to worry about. Now a federal court interpreting California law has concluded that supervisors and managers may be personally liable if they don’t provide a harassment-free work environment or if they harass a disabled employee.

Recent case: Lisa Beck sued her former employer, FedEx Ground, and the company’s HR manager, Sandra Williams. At the heart of the case was Williams’ refusal to find Beck—who was injured in an accident—a job within medical restrictions.

Among Beck’s complaints was a state negligence claim. She alleged that Williams had a duty to protect her from harassment, but instead harassed her because of her disability.

Williams’ attorney argued that California management employees can’t be held negligent because of personnel actions taken within the scope of their employment. But the federal court looked at California state cases and concluded the law didn’t preclude personal liability for harassment.

Until the California Supreme Court decides otherwise, the federal court said it would allow the negligence case to go forward. (Beck v. FedEx Ground, et al., No. S-07-0717, ED CA, 2007) 

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