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Supervisors held personally liable for employee rights violations

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who are denied overtime pay for hours worked beyond their regular schedules may directly sue their supervisors or managers. The language of the FLSA defines “employer” broadly; anyone who acts in a supervisory capacity in the interest of the employer can be held liable for violations of employee rights.

This is good news for anyone who has ever been victimized by a neglectful boss, or taken advantage of by an unscrupulous supervisor. Knowledge of one’s rights under the law can go a long way in ensuring fair workplace practices. Managers and supervisors are less likely to deny an employee overtime pay if they know they can be held personally liable.

On the other hand, operating from limited or outdated legal knowledge can be extremely costly. In a recent case, a maintenance worker sued his employer and his immediate supervisor, alleging that he had been denied pay for extra hours worked. His supervisor attempted to have her name dropped from the suit, arguing that she was not the worker’s employer. However, the court explained that the language of the FLSA is such that anyone in control of timesheets, discipline, and scheduling-such as she was-is indeed acting in the capacity of employer.

The best way to avoid the costly effects of wage-and-hour violations, both for employees and supervisors, experts suggest, is to stay current on the relevant legal details. For example, an employee who sues just his or her employer and leaves his or her supervisor off the hook is missing out on potential monetary damages.

By the same token, a supervisor must be knowledgeable as well. In many cases, a supervisor who is found liable for an employee rights violation may be able to demand that any and all damages be paid by his or her company, since he or she was acting as a representative of the company.

Source: Human Resources Journal, “The No. 1 Employer Mistake, Wrongly Labeling Employees As Exempt From Overtime Pay: Supervisors Could Pay Big Time,” Aug. 2012.