Wednesday, February 01, 2012

FMLA - "employer" - individual liability

Harbarger v. Lawrence Co. Adult Probation and Parole - 3d Circuit - January 31, 2012 (17 pp.)

Debra Haybarger appeals the District Court's decision granting summary judgment to Defendants on her claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Haybarger contends that the District Court erred in holding that, as a matter of law, Mancino--the director of the county probation/parole office--was not her "employer" under the FMLA. As a threshold matter, we hold on an issue of first impression in our Court that a supervisor in a public agency may be subject to individual liability under the FMLA.

We further hold that there exists a genuine dispute of material fact concerning whether Mancino is himself subject to such liability. Accordingly, we will vacate and remand the matter to the District Court.

Section 2611(4)(A)(ii)(I)'s [29 U.S.C. § 2611(4)(A)(i)-(iv)] inclusion of "any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer" plainly contemplates that liability for FMLA violations may be imposed upon an individual person who would not otherwise be regarded as the plaintiff‟s "employer."

The Department of Labor's implementing regulations for the FMLA confirm that the FMLA permits individual liability. The regulations state that "[e]mployers . . . include any person acting, directly or indirectly, in the interest of a covered employer to any of the employees of the employer, any successor in interest of a covered employer, and any public agency." 29 C.F.R. § 825.104(a). The regulations then explicitly provide that "individuals such as corporate officers „acting in the interest of an employer‟ are individually liable for any violations of the requirements of FMLA." 29 C.F.R. § 825.104(d). In promulgating the regulations, the Department of Labor responded to concerns of imposing individual liability under the FMLA by noting that the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., which defines "employer" similarly to the FMLA, already holds "corporate officers, managers and supervisors acting in the interest of an employer . . . individually liable." 4 Summary of Major Comments for the FMLA Regulations, 60 Fed. Reg. 2180, 2181 (Jan. 6, 1995) (citations omitted). Accordingly, the FMLA regulations leave little doubt that individual liability is available under the FMLA.