In Washington, an employee may bring a legal claim against an individual supervisor who participated in an employment termination decision, according to a federal district court. A former middle school principal brought a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy against both the school district and the individual school superintendent who participated in the discharge decision. The principal was terminated shortly after alleging wrongful conduct by the district, including misuse of funds, a plan to evade auditors, and non-payment of overtime wages for staff. The court ruled that the school superintendent could be individually sued for the tort of wrongful discharge if the superintendent’s conduct led to the employee’s termination in violation of public policy. The ruling means that any supervisors participating in a wrongful termination could be independently on the hook for damages, separate and apart from the employer’s liability (Blackman v. Omak School District, ED Wash, June 2019).
Tips: This case serves as a good reminder that managers and supervisors may be subject to individual liability for their employment decisions under many federal and state employment laws, including laws regarding leave, overtime, discrimination, and harassment. To address this potential liability as well as prevent liability for the company, managers and supervisors should be trained on basic employment laws and their compliance obligations. You can view Vigilant’s training catalog on our website.