Santiago v. Department of Transportation
Public workers can be held individually legally responsible for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 1998, the State of Connecticut hired the plaintiff, Samuel Santiago, and he became a material storage supervisor at the Department of Transportation. In 2000, the plaintiff was diagnosed with cluster headaches. In 2011, the state denied the plaintiff's request for a Family and Medical Leave Act leave, informed the plaintiff that there were no openings for light duty work and placed the plaintiff on involuntary leave. Between July 1 and Dec. 26, 2011, the plaintiff used up his paid sick and vacation time. The plaintiff sued the state and an individual defendant, who worked in human resources, alleging that they retaliated because he attempted to exercise his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 United States Code §2601. The plaintiff requested an injunction, to prevent the individual defendant from denying the plaintiff intermittent leave, if the plaintiff qualified. The defendants moved to dismiss on the grounds of sovereign immunity. The District Court dismissed the plaintiff's counts against the Department of Transportation alleging interference with the exercise of his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and retaliation. The plaintiff's counts against an individual defendant also alleged interference with the exercise of his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and retaliation. The Family and Medical Leave Act defines "employer" in part as "any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer." Courts in the 2nd Circuit have recognized individual employer liability claims against public workers. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claim for damages for alleged Family and Medical Leave Act violations against the individual defendant in her individual capacity as an "employer." The plaintiff's Family and Medical Leave Act interference and retaliation counts against the individual defendant survived.