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Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs (2003)
May an individual sue a State for money damages in federal court for violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993?
Yes. Court held that State employees may recover money damages in federal court in the event of the State's failure to comply with the FMLA's family-care provision. The Court reasoned that Congress both clearly stated its intention to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court under the FMLA and acted within its authority under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment by enacting prophylactic, rather than substantively redefining, legislation. "In sum, the States' record of unconstitutional participation in, and fostering of, gender-based discrimination in the administration of leave benefits is weighty enough to justify the enactment of prophylactic [section] 5 legislation," wrote Chief Justice Rehnquist. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy, who was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Scalia, filed dissents.
|William Hibbs, an employee of the Nevada Department of Human Resources, sought leave to care for his wife under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The FMLA entitles an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave annually for the onset of a "serious health condition" in the employee's spouse. The Department granted Hibbs's request for the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave and, after he had exhausted that leave, informed him that he must report to work by a certain date. When Hibbs failed to do so, he was fired. Pursuant to FMLA provisions creating a private right of action "against any employer" that "interfered with, restrained, or denied the exercise of" FMLA rights, Hibbs sued in Federal District Court, seeking money damages for FMLA violations. The District Court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment barred the FMLA claim. The Court of Appeals reversed.|
Federal Maritime Commissions v. South Caorlina Ports Authority (2002)
Does a State's sovereign immunity preclude the Federal Maritime Commission from adjudicating a private party's complaint that a state-run port has violated the Shipping Act of 1984?
Yes. Court held that state sovereign immunity bars the FMC from adjudicating a private party's complaint against a nonconsenting State. Historically, the Court noted, states were not subject to private suits in administrative adjudications when the Constitution was adopted, and states were thus presumptively immune from such actions. Moreover, the Court pointed to the similarities between the FMC's proceedings and civil litigation to conclude that there was no basis for distinguishing between the actions for purposes of sovereign immunity. "Although the Framers likely did not envision the intrusion on state sovereignty at issue in today's case, we are nonetheless confident that it is contrary to their constitutional design," wrote Justice Thomas.
|South Carolina Maritime Services, Inc. (Maritime Services), asked the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) five times for permission to berth a cruise ship, the M/V Tropic Sea, at the SCSPA's port facilities in Charleston, South Carolina. Some cruises offered by Maritime Services would allow passengers to participate in gambling activities while on board. The SCSPA repeatedly denied Maritime Services' requests, contending that it had an established policy of denying berths in the Port of Charleston to vessels whose primary purpose was gambling. Maritime Services file a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), arguing that SCSPA violated the Shipping Act by its denials. The complaint was referred to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who found that the SCSPA, as an arm of the State of South Carolina, was entitled to sovereign immunity and thus dismissed the complaint. Reversing on its own motion, the FMC concluded that state sovereign immunity covers proceedings before judicial tribunals, not Executive Branch agencies. In reversing, Court of Appeals fund that the proceedings were an adjudication and thus subject to state sovereign immunity.|