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Debra Haybarger v. Lawrence County Adult Probation and

January 31, 2012


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No. 2-06-cv-00862) District Judge: Gary L. Lancaster

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vanaskie, Circuit Judge.


Argued October 25, 2011

Before: FISHER, VANASKIE and ROTH, Circuit Judges


Debra Haybarger appeals the District Court‟s decision granting summary judgment to William Mancino on her claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Haybarger contends that the District Court erred in holding that, as a matter of law, Mancino was not her "employer" under the FMLA. As a threshold matter, we hold on an issue of first impression in our Court that a supervisor in a public agency may be subject to individual liability under the FMLA. We further hold that there exists a genuine dispute of material fact concerning whether Mancino is himself subject to such liability. Accordingly, we will vacate and remand the matter to the District Court.


In 1988, Debra Haybarger began working as an office manager for Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole ("Lawrence County Probation"), an agency of the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas. Beginning in 2001, her supervisor was William Mancino, the Director of Probation and Parole. Mancino reported to Michael Occhibone, the court administrator, who reported to Judge Dominick Motto, the President Judge of the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.

Haybarger has Type II diabetes, heart disease, and kidney problems, which forced her to miss work frequently to seek medical attention. Haybarger testified that Mancino expressed dissatisfaction with her absences despite recognizing that they were due to illness. Most notably, Mancino repeatedly wrote in his annual performance evaluations that Haybarger needed "[t]o improve her overall health and cut down on the days that she misses due to illness." (A. 73, 78.) She also testified that he asked her why she breathed heavily and why she needed to visit the doctor so often, and advised her that she needed to "start taking better care of [her]self." (A. 135.)

On March 23, 2004, Mancino formally disciplined Haybarger by placing her on a six-month probationary period that required weekly informal progress assessments and monthly formal meetings. Mancino alleged in his discipline letter that Haybarger‟s "conduct, work ethic[,] and behavior [were] non-conducive to the Adult Probation Office." (A. 92.) He further alleged that she demonstrated a "lack of leadership," "no clear understanding of the subordinate positions" that she supervised, and "a lack[] [of] empathy to subordinate workers." (A. 92.) Mancino testified during his deposition that he consulted with Occhibone before issuing the discipline letter, but that he had the independent authority to issue the letter on his own and did not require Occhibone‟s approval.

Approximately six months later, Mancino informed Occhibone and Judge Motto that Haybarger‟s job performance had not improved since he disciplined her in March 2004. Mancino claims that he did not have authority to terminate Haybarger‟s employment, but he admits that he advised Judge Motto to dismiss her. Further, he wrote in a summary of Haybarger‟s dismissal to Lawrence County Probation‟s Human Resources department ("Human Resources") that after two meetings with Occhibone concerning Haybarger‟s performance, he "told [Occhibone] that [he] had decided that [he] had no other alternative at this time but to terminate her employment." (A. 96.) According to Occhibone, Judge Motto agreed with Mancino‟s recommendation, believing "that Mr. Mancino took all measures to help Ms. Haybarger retain employment and that unfortunately . . . termination was necessary." (A. 98.) Accordingly, Mancino wrote in his summary to Human Resources that Judge Motto "permitted [him] to terminate her." (A. 96.)

Mancino, Occhibone, and Judge Motto informed Haybarger of her termination at a meeting in the courthouse on October 4, 2004. Additionally, Mancino wrote Haybarger‟s termination letter on the same date, stating that "[u]pon final review of your probationary period, I feel that no progress or [sic] has been made by you, further, that you are incapable of performing at the level necessary to complete your assigned duties as the Office Manager in my office."

(A. 99.) He further stated that "[a]fter conferring with the District Court Administrator, Michael Occhibone, and the President Judge, Dominick Motto, we are in agreement that your termination . . . is necessary and in the best interest of the overall operations of the Adult Probation Office." (A. 99.)

Haybarger sued Lawrence County Probation, the County of Lawrence, and Mancino under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (the "PHRA"), 43 Pa. Const. Stat. § 951, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., and the FMLA. On March 14, 2007, the District Court dismissed all of Haybarger‟s claims against the County of Lawrence; Haybarger‟s ADA, FMLA, and PHRA claims against Lawrence County Probation; Haybarger‟s FMLA claims against Mancino in his official capacity; and Haybarger‟s ADA claim against Mancino in both his individual and official capacities. There thus remained pending the Rehabilitation Act claim against Lawrence County Probation and the FMLA and PHRA claims against Mancino in his individual capacity.

After limited discovery, Lawrence County Probation moved for summary judgment based on the Eleventh Amendment. The District Court denied Lawrence County Probation‟s motion for summary judgment, and we affirmed. See Haybarger v. Lawrence Cnty. Adult Prob. & Parole, 551 F.3d 193, 203 (3d Cir. 2008).

On remand, Lawrence County Probation moved for summary judgment on Haybarger‟s Rehabilitation Act claim, and Mancino moved for summary judgment on Haybarger‟s FMLA claim.*fn1 The District Court denied summary judgment on Haybarger‚Äüs Rehabilitation Act claim, and Lawrence ...

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