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Second Circuit Holds HR Professionals Can Be Liable as ‘Employers’ Under FMLA

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has recently held that a human resources manager could be held liable as an employer under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In issuing its decision in Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, the court also articulated standards for FMLA interference claims and association discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

HR Directors Beware: You Could Be Individually Liable Under the FMLA

Employers routinely hire human resources (HR) employees to help the company navigate the myriad laws and regulations governing employment issues. These employees are often tasked with ensuring that the employers do not run afoul of these laws and regulations. For example, when employees request that they be allowed to take a leave of absence, managers often look to the company’s HR employee for assistance in determining when and under what circumstances an employee can take leaves, what documents are required from the employee, when the employee can return to work, and what accommodations, if any, are required when the employee returns to work. It is common — indeed, an accepted and even legally recommended policy — for companies to allow HR personnel to be the “point person” with regard to an employee’s leave of absence request. But, HR employees beware: The Second Circuit recently held that an HR director can be personally liable for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq. for her conduct in interacting with an employee seeking such leave.
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