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State Workers Can't Sue States For Unpaid Sick Leave: SCOTUS

The Supreme Court of the United States, adopting a states-friendly position, recently ruled that state workers can't sue states for unpaid sick leave under federal law, reports The Los Angeles Times. The ruling strikes down a portion of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FMLA, which applies to employers who have more than fifty employees on their payroll, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who choose to take time off of work to care for certain medical needs of their own, or to care for their family members, including newborn and adopted children, reports FindLaw.

Under the FMLA, an employee can take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave per year. And if an employer denies an employee such leave then an employee may sue for damages. In the case before the Supreme Court, Daniel Coleman, an employee of the Maryland Court of Appeals, tried to argue that his employer had violated the FMLA for denying him sick leave for himself (or self-care as its legally called).

In ruling against Coleman, the Supremes applied a principle called "sovereign immunity" which is considered to be friendly to the states. Ironically, in 2003, the Supreme Court had ruled that state employees could sue states for FMLA violations that were related to leave to care for family members.

If there is a silver lining here is that the Court did not touch the issue of private employees. They are still subject to the FMLA and to that end most of the guidelines about the FMLA presented by the state of Texas still hold. However, discerning readers will no doubt be asking -- if the federal government can't tell the state government what to do, how can it tell private employers inside that state what to do?

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