Employers should be aware that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held, in Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, that supervising employees can be held individually liable under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for retaliation and interference with an employee’s FMLA rights. The Court also formally adopted standards for FMLA interference claims and for claims brought pursuant to the associational discrimination provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The plaintiff, Cathleen Graziadio, was a Payroll Administrator at the Culinary Institute of America (“CIA”). At issue in Graziadio’s lawsuit were two FMLA leaves – one to care for a son with diabetes, and the second to care for another son who fractured his leg and required surgery. In connection with her first FMLA leave, Graziadio submitted a medical certification to the CIA without incident. When Graziadio attempted to return to work and use intermittent FMLA leave, CIA Human Resources Director, Shayan Garrioch, informed Graziadio that she needed to submit an updated certification to support the intermittent leave to care for her son with diabetes, as well an initial certification to support FMLA leave to care for her son suffering from a leg injury. Graziadio responded with multiple emails and phone calls to Garrioch, seeking clarification as to exactly what paperwork was needed and making clear her desire to return to work. Instead of providing specific instructions, Garrioch simply requested “additional paperwork,” prompting Graziadio to make repeated requests for clarification as to what specific paperwork was required. Although Garrioch ignored Graziadio’s request for clarification, Graziadio submitted a new FMLA certification, which went unacknowledged. Eventually, communications between Garrioch and Graziadio broke down completely and Graziadio was terminated for job abandonment.
Graziadio filed suit in the Southern District of New York against CIA and Garrioch, alleging interference with FMLA leave, FMLA retaliation, and associational discrimination under the ADA. The district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed all claims.