Question by the United States District Court for the District
of Rhode Island in accordance with Article I, Rule 6 of the
Supreme Court Rules of Appellate Procedure (13-92 S). Chief
Judge William E. Smith of the United States District Court
for the District of Rhode Island
Plaintiff: Mark P. Gagliardi, Esq. Alicia Mary Connor, Esq.
Defendant: Kevin F. McHugh, Esq. Kathryn M. Sabatini, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
case comes before us pursuant to a September 26, 2013 order
of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode
Island certifying a question to this Court in accordance with
Article I, Rule 6(a) of the Supreme Court Rules of Appellate
Procedure. The certified question reads as follows:
"Does Section 28-5-7(6) of the Rhode Island Fair
Employment Practices Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-1 et
seq. ('FEPA'), provide for the individual
liability of an employee of a defendant employer and, if so,
under what circumstances?"
reasons set forth in this opinion, we answer the certified
question in the negative-G.L. 1956 § 28-5-7(6) does
not provide for the individual liability of an
employee of a defendant employer.
not necessary for us to delve too deeply into the factual
background of this case due to the fact that we are called
upon to answer only a narrow question of law. It suffices to
say that there is an action pending in federal court in which
plaintiff, Sergeant Mark Mancini, alleges that he was
illegally denied a promotion to the position of Lieutenant in
the Providence Police Department. According to the
Certification Order, the eleven-count complaint involves
claims of employment and disability discrimination against
the City of Providence and Hugh Clements, Jr., the Chief of
Police of the Providence Police Department. At issue in the
instant proceeding is plaintiff's count claiming that
Chief Clements is liable, in his individual capacity, for the
City's failure to have promoted plaintiff in alleged
violation of FEPA § 28-5-7(6). In the federal action,
Chief Clements moved to dismiss the count alleging that he
had violated § 28-5-7(6) on the basis that, in his view,
that statutory section does not provide for individual
liability. The District Court subsequently certified to this
Court the question with which we are presently grappling. Our
role in this case is limited to answering the legal question
certified to us.
jurisprudence is clear that "certified questions are
questions of law and are reviewed de novo by this
Court." In re Tetreault, 11 A.3d 635, 639 (R.I.
2011); see also Western Reserve Life Assurance Co. of
Ohio v. ADM Associates, LLC, 116 A.3d 794, 798 (R.I.
2015). Moreover, as we have often stated, this Court adheres
to the de novo standard when reviewing issues of
statutory construction. DeMarco v. Travelers Insurance
Co., 26 A.3d 585, 616 (R.I. 2011); see also State v.
LaRoche, 925 A.2d 885, 887 (R.I. 2007).