In Graziadio v. Culinary Inst. of America, 216 U.S. App. LEXIS 4861 (2nd Cir. 2016) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that individuals can be held personally liable for violations of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The court specifically held that the defendant’s Human Resources Director could be adjudged personally liable for the employer’s alleged violations of the FMLA because the HR Director was also arguably an “employer” for purposes of the FMLA.
The court in Graziadio identified four ‘nonexclusive and overlapping set of factors’ to consider in determining whether an individual such as the defendant’s HR Director was also an “employer” for purposes of FMLA liability:
- Whether the individual has the power to hire and to fire the employee;
- Whether the individual supervised and controlled the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment;
- Whether the individual determined the rate and method of payment; and,
- Whether the individual maintained employment records for the employee.
Ultimately, these factors are weighed to determine the economic reality of the relationship between the employee asserting FMLA rights and their supervisor who may be held personally liable if they personally “controlled in whole or in part plaintiff’s rights under the FMLA.”
Employers with employment practices insurance coverage should make sure that their management employees are covered personally against such claims. HR Directors and other managers responsible for FMLA compliance should also take steps to ensure that they minimize their exposure to personal liability for such claims.