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Mancini v. City of Providence

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 8, 2017

Mark Mancini
v.
City of Providence et al.

         Certified 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

          For Plaintiff: Mark P. Gagliardi, Esq. Alicia Mary Connor, Esq.

          For Defendant: Kevin F. McHugh, Esq. Kathryn M. Sabatini, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          ROBINSON JUSTICE.

         This 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.[1] 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?"

         For the 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.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         It is 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.

         II

         Standard of Review

         Our 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).

         III

         Analysis

         A

         Individual ...


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