Most business people are aware of the business risk companies face from employment practices – things like sexual harassment claims, discrimination allegations, and wage and hour violations can be expensive and damaging experiences for companies. The thing many managers don’t realize though is that their individual actions could result in their being named personally in lawsuits. In these situations, their company is not necessarily obligated to defend them in court.
An Example of Alleged Manager Liability in An Employment Dispute
One case currently in the courts illustrates how individuals can be held liable for decisions made in the scope of their employment. In the Haybarger v. Lawrence County Adult
Probation and Parole, William Mancino case the plaintiff, Debra Haybarger alleged that she was fired for missing too many days of work due to a medical condition, a clear violation of the FMLA. Both the employer and her direct supervisor were originally named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Haybarger had been an office manager with the Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole office for 13 years and reported to William Mancino. She suffered from several serious medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease that required her to miss work.
Mancino repeatedly wrote on her performance evaluations that she needed to “improve her overall health and cut down on the days that she misses due to illness.” In her testimony, Hayberger also said that her supervisor repeatedly advised her to “start taking better care of herself” and inquired as to why she needed to see a doctor so often.
Later, Mancino placed Haybarger on a six-month probationary period citing “conduct, work ethic, and behavior non-conducive to the (probation department operation),” a “lack of leadership,” and “a lack of empathy to subordinate workers” as the grounds for the disciplinary action. After the probationary period was up, Mancino recommended to his boss that she be terminated, and she was.
Although the Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole office settled the case out of court, an appeals court has ruled that Mancino can be held personally liable as well for his actions. The case against Mancino is currently still pending.
Shielding Yourself From Personal Liability
With employment practices suits on the rise, you need to be aware of personal risks associated with your work. Those with control over wage and hour issues, administering raises, pay cuts, hiring/firing, demotions/promotions are considered “employers” that can be held liable for their actions under a number of federal employment laws.
As a business professional – whether you’re an owner, C-level employee, manager, or HR – you need to prepare yourself for this risk. To that end, we compiled a guide on shielding yourself from this risk called “5 Key Ways to Limit Your Personal Liability Exposure.” Click the button below to download it!