U.S. Supreme Court To Review Whether States Have Immunity To the FMLA's Self-Care Leave Provision

On June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court granted a state employee's petition to review a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denying his FMLA claim.  In Coleman v. Maryland Ct. of Appeals, the Court will consider whether states enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit under the FMLA's self-care leave provision. 

The Supreme Court previously ruled in Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003), that state employers are constitutionally subject to the FMLA provision concerning leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.  In denying Coleman's FMLA claim, the Fourth Circuit ruled that courts must analyze each FMLA provision separately, and that states have Eleventh Amendment immunity to FMLA claims premised upon the Act's self-care provision.  While the Fourth Circuit recognized that Congress intended to abrogate states' immunity when it passed the provision, it held that the provision was not a valid exercise of Congress' power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Fourth Circuit also noted that there is no split in the circuits; every federal circuit court to have considered the issue has held that states are immune from the Act's self-care leave provision.