The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 entitles eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year. Under the so-called “self-care” provision, those weeks of unpaid leave may be used when the employee’s own serious health condition interferes with the employee’s ability to perform at work. The Act confers on eligible employees a private right of action against an employer who violates the self-care provision.
In today’s decision in Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not validly abrogate the States’ immunity from suits for damages and that a state employee, Daniel Coleman, could therefore not recover damages from his state employer for violating the self-care provision.
This heretofore relatively obscure case has the basic ingredients to be hyped by the liberal media: a five-to-four partisan ideological divide (Kennedy and the four judicial conservatives vanquishing the liberals); a divisive ideological question (Congress’s power under section 5 of the 14th Amendment to abrogate state sovereign immunity); and a Ginsburg dissent full of rhetoric about the “right to be free from gender discrimination in the workplace,” “unconstitutional discrimination against pregnant women,” and a statutory aim “to make it feasible for women to work while sustaining family life.”
[Update (3/21): I now see from news reports, like this one in the New York Times, that Ginsburg also expressed her displeasure by reading a summary of her dissent in open court (an unusual step typically reserved for disagreements of special importance, although Ginsburg seems to resort to the practice much more freely than other justices do). So even though the NYT news editors sensibly relegated the decision to page A15, you can expect the NYT editorial board to follow Ginsburg’s cue and issue a screeching editorial against the ruling.]
It’s worth noting that the majority reached the same result as all seven courts of appeals that had addressed the question. Further:
The Seventh Circuit’s opinion was authored by Diane Wood, a leading contender for the last two Supreme Court vacancies filled by President Obama, and it was joined by Clinton appointee Terence Evans.
The First Circuit’s opinion was authored by Sandra Lynch, a Clinton appointee. [In the initial version of this post, I mistakenly stated that another Clinton appointee had joined the opinion.]
The Tenth Circuit’s opinion was authored by one Clinton appointee, Robert Henry, and joined by another, Michael Murphy.
These facts undercut the Left’s desired narrative about today’s ruling. Let’s see how many critics of the Court’s decision acknowledge them.