On May 6, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found in Spiegel v. Schulmann
, 06-5914-CV (2d. Cir. May 6, 2010), that supervisors cannot be held individually liable for retaliation claims brought under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). While it has long been the rule in the Second Circuit (which encompasses Connecticut, New York and Vermont) that individual supervisors are not liable for retaliation claims brought under Title VII, this is the first case in which the Court has definitively held that supervisors cannot be held individually liable for ADA retaliation claims.
The plaintiff, an obese karate instructor brought disability discrimination and retaliation claims against both the company that managed the school where he worked, and the founder of the Tiger Schulmann karate school franchise. Agreeing with the Connecticut District Court, the Second Circuit found that the ADA’s provisions are borrowed directly from Title VII’s remedy provisions, which do not allow for individual liability. Although the language of the ADA provides that “no person shall [discriminate or retaliate against another person on the basis of disability as defined under the ADA],” the Court held that to interpret the ADA so as to confer individual liability upon supervisors would be inconsistent with Congress’ intent under Title VII that individuals should not be held liability for acts of retaliation.
Although this case may prevent ADA retaliation claims against individual managers, state and local non-discrimination laws continue to provide plaintiffs remedies for claims against individual managers. Moreover, nothing in this decision limits an employer’s ultimate responsibility for the actions of its managers and supervisors.