On the heels of federal legislation prohibiting employment discrimination most states, including Maine, have enacted their own civil or human rights statutes aimed at eliminating discriminatory behavior in the workplace. Like its federal counterpart, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Maine Human Rights Act, enacted in 1971, prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, or national origin and provides a civil remedy for victims of employment discrimination. Moreover, like Title VII, the question of just who constitutes a liable “employer” under the Maine Human Rights Act has been the subject of much disagreement in both the legal and business communities. That the discrimination statutes subject the entity issuing the paycheck to liability for the discriminatory acts of its supervisory employees is well settled and beyond dispute. Whether plaintiffs may sue individual supervisors who discriminate, however, is hotly debated. There are three generally recognized reasons that a plaintiff would choose to name a supervisor in a discrimination suit: 1) to recover damages if the employing entity is insolvent or successfully asserts an affirmative defense; 2) to punish the actual discriminator; and 3) to avoid complete diversity in order to remain in state court. These goals, however, are often frustrated as many courts decline to recognize individual liability under employment discrimination statutes. This Comment concludes that individual liability would complicate employment relationships and litigation while doing nothing to further the goals of the Maine Human Rights Act. If supervisors can be held personally liable for employment discrimination they will fear making even merit-based business decisions that may adversely affect members of protected classes. Moreover, under a rule of individual liability, the focus of discrimination claims will shift from the eradication of the discrimination to who should be held responsible for it. Because they are in the unique position of controlling the workplace culture through training and the adoption of antidiscrimination policies, employers, not supervisors, should be responsible for employment discrimination in Maine.
Katharine I. Rand,
Taking Care of Business and Protecting Maine's Employees: Supervisor Liability for Employment Discrimination Under the Maine Human Rights Act,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol55/iss2/7