The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) provides eligible employees with twelve workweeks of unpaid leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child, caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, the employee’s own serious health condition, and exigencies relating to an employee’s or a family member’s service in the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces. Among the FMLA’s protections is an eligible employee’s entitlement to be protected from interference and retaliation by an “employer” for the exercise of FMLA rights.
Until just last week, it was unclear in the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut and Vermont) whether an individual supervisor or other management official could be sued under the FMLA as an “employer” for interference and retaliation. On March 17, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Grazadio v. Culinary Institute of America, No. 15-888-cv, ruled that an individual management employee could be considered an employer under the FMLA and held liable for violating an employee’s FMLA rights.
In Graziadio, the plaintiff had sought to take two separate leaves relating to her childrens’ serious health conditions. The first approved leave was taken in connection with her son’s diabetes, and the second leave was sought and taken about a week after she returned to work as a result of her other son having suffered a leg fracture, necessitating surgery. The plaintiff had promptly informed her supervisor that she would need to take an immediate second leave and that she would return approximately 10 days later “at least part time.” Ultimately, the plaintiff sought approval to return to work from this second leave on a reduced schedule and asked whether the employer needed “any further documentation” from her concerning the leave that she had taken.