In the case of Edelman vs. Source Healthcare Analytics, LLC., the employee alleged that the HR director could be personally liable because she administered both the employer’s leave policies and the plaintiff’s individual leave. The court refused to dismiss a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) suit filed against an HR Director, holding that the Director could be individually liable. (Edelman v. Source Healthcare Analytics, Inc., No. 16-6280 (E.D. Pa. July 18, 2017).
The case involved an employee (the plaintiff) who, after taking leave for surgery was ready to return to work with an accommodation of no long-distance travel for about a month. According to the complaint, the employer failed to respond to the plaintiff’s repeated requests to return to her duties and, once the 12 weeks of FMLA were exhausted, the company fired the employee.
The plaintiff sued the company and specifically named the HR director as an additional defendant. A motion was filed asking the court to dismiss the claims against HR Director, but the court denied the motion. The judge referred to the FMLA’s definition of “employer” as “any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer.” U.S. Department of Labor regulations makes clear that this can extend to corporate officers.
The facts also indicated that the HR Director was responsible for firing the plaintiff. The employee alleged that the HR Director “acted on behalf of SHA to deny Plaintiff’s reinstatement and manipulated her leave in an attempt to later claim that Plaintiff exceeded her allotted FMLA leave.” The Director argued that her “administrative duties” did not rise to the level of control necessary for individual liability. The Court disagreed with that argument and held the HR Director personally liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
The takeaway for HR personnel in regard to the employment status of those employees who are on FMLA recently returned from such leave, or are requesting FMLA, is to make sure that such decisions be taken with great care to ensure no violation of the FMLA. Further, copious documentation of all decisions taken is crucial as part of any supervisor’s defense in any potential litigation.
Finally, it is good practice to ensure that all management-level personnel are properly trained on the ins and outs of FMLA, as they are responsible for ensuring compliance with the law and managing any potential issues that may arise. To ensure that your managers are in compliance, we strongly encourage clients to assign their management team the GHR online FMLA training course at no additional cost. If you have any questions or need assistance in assigning online training, please contact email@example.com.
Feel free to access our Forms Library for all required and recommended support documentation for your FMLA and other state-mandated leave laws. You may always reach out to your Dedicated HR Manager for support and guidance.
If you wish to become a client of Guardian HR and get access to all our resources, including your own dedicated consultant and our team of employment attorneys, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 888-373-4724.