Posted on January 15, 2003 Issues: Workplace Justice

Media Advisory for: January 15, 2003

Contact: Camden Richards or Margot Friedman at 202-588-5180

NWLC Urges Supreme Court to Protect Family & Medical Leave Act

Court to Hear Oral Argument on January 15 at 11 A.M.

(Washington, D.C.) A case to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court next week will determine whether the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be enforced by state government workers. NWLC, on behalf of itself and 31 civil rights and women’s rights organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court briefin the case and is available for comment on the oral argument, the FMLA, and the significance of this case. The landmark 1993 FMLA requires employers to provide job-protected leave to employees facing major family demands, but Nevada contends that the law does not apply to the states as employers, in Hibbs v. Nevada Department of Human Resources.

“Winning this case is essential for protecting employees’ rights to take unpaid family leave. All workers, whether they work in the public or private sectors, deserve the same rights to take leave to care for a seriously ill family member,” said Judy Appelbaum, NWLC Vice President for Employment Opportunities.

NWLC’s brief argues that the FMLA, by requiring that employers provide a minimum amount of family leave to both male and female employees, is aimed at counteracting outmoded stereotypes and assumptions about the role of women as caregivers and men as workers that are harmful to both women and men, and that are violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution when engaged in by states.

In this challenge to the FMLA, William Hibbs was terminated from his job with the State of Nevada after taking leave to care for his ill wife. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Hibbs’ favor, finding that state employees like Hibbs are entitled to bring suits for monetary damages against states for violating their employees’ FMLA rights. NWLC and other organizations argue that the Ninth Circuit’s decision should be affirmed because Congress enacted the FMLA to combat sex discrimination in employment and this intent overrides the states’ immunity from lawsuits.

To view NWLC’s brief, or to learn more about Hibbs v. Nevada Department of Human Resources, please visit the Employment section.

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