Media Release: States Get a Green Light on Violating Workers’ Rights

Statement of Linda Meric, Executive Director, 9to5 National Association of Working Women

March 27, 2012 — In a bitter loss for millions of state workers and their families, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled against petitioner Daniel Coleman in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals.

State employees will be denied legal recourse if their employers refuse them medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to employees to care for a newborn, sick family member, or because the employee has a medical condition.

State workers are now at risk of losing their job or experiencing disciplinary actions for simply taking leave to address medical needs. State female employees who take time off to have children may now suffer blatant discrimination. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of four dissenting justices, wrote, “The F.M.L.A. was originally envisioned as a way to guarantee — without singling out women or pregnancy — that pregnant women would not lose their jobs when they gave birth.”

Even Justice Kennedy writing for four of the justices in the majority recognized that: “documented discrimination against women in the general workplace is a persistent unfortunate reality, and we must assume, a still prevalent wrong. An explicit purpose of the Congress in adopting the FMLA was to improve workplace conditions for women. But states may not be subject to suits for damages based on violations of a comprehensive statute unless Congress has identified a specific pattern of constitutional violations by state employers.”

This deplorable ruling takes away employer accountability and gives a green light to state governments to practice discrimination. Once again, workers’ rights are being trampled upon. 9to5 intends to appeal to state governments to uphold these basic labor standards to protect workers’ rights and support working families.


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