Fuhrmann v. Staples Office Superstore East, Inc.: A Split in the Law Court as to the Definition of "Employer" Demonstrates the Need for Legislative Action to Amend the Maine Human Rights Act in Order to Protect Maine Employees
In Fuhrmann v. Staples Office Superstore East, Inc., Jamie Fuhrmann submitted a complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission (Commission) against her former employer, Staples Office Superstore East, Inc. (Staples), and four of her individual supervisors. After the Commission granted her right to sue, she filed a complaint in court alleging whistleblower retaliation under the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA), as well as sex discrimination under the MHRA. The Superior Court granted Staples’ motion for summary judgment on all counts, and granted the four supervisors’ motions to dismiss on the grounds that individual supervisor liability is not permitted under either the WPA or MHRA. On appeal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, vacated the grant of summary judgment as to Fuhrmann’s whistleblower claim on the grounds that there was enough evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to why Staples refused to accommodate Fuhrmann’s work schedule. In addition, the Law Court was asked to rule for the first time “whether the MHRA and the WPA provide for individual liability of supervisory employees.” Although the Commission interpreted the MHRA as allowing for “individual supervisor liability for employment discrimination” and argued that the Law Court should hold that the WPA does as well, the Law Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that neither the WPA nor the MHRA provides for individual supervisor liability in employment discrimination claims, and thereby affirmed the supervisors’ motions to dismiss. This Note considers whether the majority in Fuhrmann properly concluded that individual supervisor liability is nonexistent under the WPA and MHRA, or if the Law Court should have interpreted the language of the MHRA to provide for such liability and give deference to the Commission’s reasonable interpretation, as the dissent argues.
Stephen B. Segal,
Fuhrmann v. Staples Office Superstore East, Inc.: A Split in the Law Court as to the Definition of "Employer" Demonstrates the Need for Legislative Action to Amend the Maine Human Rights Act in Order to Protect Maine Employees,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol66/iss1/12