Mar 15, 2010

Personal Liability for FMLA Violations

Yet another federal court has found that an employee may sue not only the company but also individual managers -- and even an HR representative -- for violating the FMLA. As reported here in the Legal Intelligencer, a federal district court judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled (in the case of Narodetsky v. Cardone Industries, Inc., et al.) that a fired employee's lawsuit may go forward against the former employer and five individual defendants, including the plant manager and the human resources manager, director, and representative. (The individual defendants filed a motion to dismiss the allegations against them, which the judge denied.)

The employee who was fired, Dmitry Narodestsky, claimed that the day after his wife told the company he would need leave for surgery, the defendants searched his computer looking for a reason to fire him. Narodestsky was fired about two weeks later for forwarding an email to another employee. Several of the individual defendants were present at the termination meeting.

The judge refused to dismiss the claims against the individual defendants based on the language of the FMLA regulations, which state that "any person who acts directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer" may qualify as an employer under the law. The judge also found that the individual defendants exercised some control over Narodetsky's employment, in that they participated in the decision to fire him and the termination meeting.

This decision is only the latest in a long line of cases that have upheld FMLA claims against individual managers and officers who have played a role in denying an employee's FMLA rights. To make sure your company is in compliance, pick up a copy of Nolo's The Essential Guide to Family and Medical Leave (full disclosure: I'm the coauthor). The most recent edition covers the 2008 revision of the FMLA regulations, recent provisions relating to leave for military family members, and the new forms and notice requirements.