Individual supervisors in public agencies may be sued for violating the Family Medical Leave Act

Posted May 2012 in Family Medical Leave by Sharon Lopez

Supervisors, whether they work for a public employer or a private employer, may be individually liable under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Haybarger v. Lawrence County Adult Prob. & Parole, 667 F.3d 408 (3d Cir. 2012).  Debra Haybarger worked in the Lawrence County Office of Probation and Parole as an office manager.  Her supervisor, William Mancino, was the director of probation and parole. Haybarger had diabetes, heart disease, and kidney problems. Mancino had Harbarger fired for poor performance.   Hayberger asserted this was pretext for retaliation under the FMLA and she sued.  Mancino filed summary judgment motions at the district court level and the trial court granted the motion.  Haybarger appealed.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and reversed holding that supervisors can be individually liable under FMLA if after reviewing all the circumstances it is determined that the “economic reality” test indicates the supervisor is acting as the employer.  Some of the factors the Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered are: whether the individual (1) had the power to hire and fire the employee, (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment, (3) determined the rate and method of payment, and (4) maintained employment records. In reaching this conclusion the Court found no reason to treat supervisors acting as employers for public entities any differently than supervisors working for private employees.  This case keeps the door to justice open for public employees.  For more information about your rights under the Family Medical leave Act review the Department of Labor web site.

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