Oral argument: Jan. 11, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Nov. 10, 2010)
After respondent Maryland Court of Appeals denied petitioner Daniel Coleman’s request for medical leave and terminated his employment, Coleman filed this suit against the State of Maryland under the self-care provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which provides that “an eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period . . . [b]ecause of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position,” 29 U. S. C. §2612(a)(1) (D). Coleman argues that the Act’s medical leave provisions should be considered as a unified effort against gender discrimination that permits state employees to sue state employers under the self-care provision, and that the purpose of preventing gender discrimination abrogates state immunity. The state responds that the FMLA’s provisions address discrete forms of discrimination that should be examined individually and that the states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity bars lawsuits against a state employer under the self-care provision. By deciding whether a state employee has legal recourse for a violation of the self-care provision, this case will clarify the scope of state exposure to employment lawsuits seeking money damages under the FMLA.