A supervisor who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of the employer to any of the employees of such employer may be held individually liable under the Family Medical Leave Act.
The plaintiff, a former employee with the Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole Office, filed an appeal of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, which granted the defendant/supervisor summary judgment on the plaintiff's claim under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The plaintiff was an office manager for the probation department. Her supervisor expressed dissatisfaction with her absences, despite recognizing that they were due to her diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems. The plaintiff's supervisor placed her on six months probation, and at the conclusion of the probationary period, she advised the judge with the authority to hire and fire probation employees that the plaintiff should be fired for failure to improve her job performance. The court reasoned that Congress clearly chose to make the definition of employer under the FMLA identical to the definition of employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An employer defined under the FLSA and FMLA is any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of the employer to any of the employees of such employer. As such, the court held that the plaintiff's supervisor may be held liable in his individual capacity and that the lower court erred in granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment. However, the court remanded the case because the court recognized there was a genuine issue as to material fact concerning whether the supervisor himself was subject to individual liability in accordance with the definition of employer as defined by the FSLA and the FMLA. As such, the court concluded that the decision whether the supervisor was acting directly or indirectly in the interest of the employer requires a resolution by the trier of fact.
Case Law Alert - 3rd Qtr 2012