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Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals (10-1016) 
FMLA self-care leave provision is not enforceable against states (5-4). 

Decided March 20, 2012 
[Opinion full text]  

Coleman sued his employer, an instrumentality of the State of Maryland, claiming a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by denying him self-care leave. The Federal District Court dismissed the suit; the 4th Circuit affirmed. The US Supreme Court affirmed (5-4).

Four Justices said that in order for Congress to abrogate the states' immunity through the use of Section 5 of the 14th amendment, there must be "a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end ." In Nevada Dept of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 US 721 (2003), the Court upheld the portion of the FMLA that provides leave for the care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious medical condition. However, the sex-based discrimination identified in the Hibbs case is absent with regard to the self-care provision. There is a lack of congruence and proportionality. The plurality rejected arguments that the self-care provision addresses sex discrimination and sex stereotyping, that it is a necessary adjunct to the family-care provision upheld in Hibbs, and that it helps single parents keep their jobs when they get ill.

Justice Scalia rejected the "congruence and proportionality" approach, saying that (outside of race discrimination) Congress' power under Section 5 of the 14th amendment is limited to regulating conduct that itself violates the 14th amendment.

Four DISSENTING Justices would hold that "the self-care provision ... validly enforces the right to be free from gender discrimination in the workplace."

Case below: Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187 (4th Cir 11/10/2010) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted: June 27, 2011. 
Oral argument:  Wednesday, January 11, 2012.  

Questions presented in petition for certiorari:   

In passing the Family and Medical Leave Act, as the Court recognized in Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, Congress intended to eliminate gender discrimination in the granting of sick leave. Its purpose and findings are supported by the legislative record. The question presented for review is: 

Whether Congress constitutionally abrogated states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity when it passed the self-care leave provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Briefs on the merits: 

Certiorari Documents: 


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