Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: March 20, 2012
  • Case #: 10-1016
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Alito JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined, and in which Sotomayor and Kagan, JJ., joined as to all but footnote 1.
  • Full Text Opinion

Congress' abrogation of state sovereign immunity in FMLA’s “self-care” provision is unconstitutional because it lacks congruence and proportionality to the harm it seeks to remedy.

Petitioner filed suit against his former employer under Title VII and the FMLA. The district court dismissed Petitioner’s claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Both courts held that although Congress “unequivocally declare[d] its intent to abrogate” the states’ immunity, it did so unlawfully, because abrogation must be done “pursuant to a valid exercise of its power.”

The United States Supreme Court affirmed. In reaching its conclusion, the Court affirmed its holding in Nevada v. Hibbs that Congress enacted the FMLA pursuant to its power under § 5 of the 14th Amendment with a clear intent to abrogate state sovereign immunity and that other FMLA provisions were constitutional inasmuch as they were “congruent and proportional” to remedying a pattern of state-level gender discrimination. However, contrary to the gender discrimination in Hibbs, the Court found that Congress failed to produce any evidence that the “self-care” provisions of FMLA were necessary to the family-care provisions or that they reduced employer discrimination against women and that “although disparate impact may be relevant evidence of discrimination, such evidence is insufficient to prove a constitutional violation even where the Fourteenth Amendment subjects state action to strict scrutiny.”

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