U.S. Supreme Court to hear Nevada sex discrimination case
June 26, 2002
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Nevada’s appeal of a case allowing the state to be sued for sex discrimination.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state couldn’t claim immunity in cases involving the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The suit was filed by William Hibbs after the Human Resources Department refused to grant him more leave so he could take care of his wife after she was seriously injured in a car wreck.
The state invoked the 11th Amendment, claiming immunity from the lawsuit. State and U.S. District courts both agreed with the state’s lawyers, but the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision in December, saying the case is supported by evidence that gender discrimination is a nationwide problem in the public sector as well as the private sector.
The appellate court opinion said there is evidence employers grant more liberal leave to women who need to take care of a family member than to men.
Hibbs’ lawyer, Treva Hearne of Reno, said the Justice Department joined in the case on the side of her client.
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The appellate court decision says Congress intended to allow lawsuits based on violations of the Family Medical Leave Act and Nevada can’t claim immunity.
But the Attorney General’s Office disagreed with the decision and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hearne said Monday the National Partnership for Women & Families is supporting Hibbs in his battle with the state. The National Partnership helped author the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“The heart of this case is clear,” said Judith Lichtman, president of the National Partnership. “State employees are entitled to the same family leave rights as other working Americans.”
She said state employees who need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member are entitled to their day in court if the state violates their rights the same as a private company’s employees.
She said the Ninth Circuit decision is correct and should be affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“State employers should not be immune from liability for damages when they violate employees’ rights to care a seriously ill family member,” she said.
Hearne said the arguments in the case will be heard sometime in October.