- A federal district court has refused to dismiss a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) suit filed against an HR director, holding that the director could be individually liable in the case (Edelman v. Source Healthcare Analytics, Inc., No. 16-6280 (E.D. Pa. July 18, 2017)).
- After taking leave for surgery, an employee asked to return to work with an accommodation: no long-distance travel for about a month. According to the complaint, the employer failed to respond to her requests and, once her 12 weeks of FMLA were exhausted, fired her.
- The employee sued, specifically naming the HR director as a defendant. The director asked the court to dismiss the claims against her, but it declined.
The FMLA defines an “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 make clear that this can extend to corporate officers.
In this case, 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. She also was responsible for firing the plaintiff. She "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 employee has alleged.
The director, however, has argued that her "administrative duties" do not rise to the level of control necessary for individual liability.
It remains to be seen how this case will play out, but it wouldn't be the first time a court held an HR director individually liable.