The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that under the Constitution’s 11th Amendment, a state-affiliated educational institution is immune from suit over the’s self-care provisions.
Recent case: Paula worked for Montclair State University in New Jersey. In 2013, she took medical leave for breast cancer treatment. She followed all of her employer’s leave rules when she took time off. Even so, the university told her that when she returned, she would have a different job. Paula considered it an inferior job and declined the offer. The university then terminated her.
Paula sued, alleging that she was entitled to reinstatement under the FMLA.
The university asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing it was unconstitutional. It cited the 11th Amendment, which grants state sovereign immunity from some lawsuits.
The case went up to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the university. It concluded that the university was right: Paula’s employer was immune from a lawsuit to enforce the FMLA self-care provisions in federal court. (Maliandi v. Montclair State University, No. 14-3812, 3rd Cir., 2016)
Final note: Educational institutions that are an integral part of their state governments may still be sued in federal court for various forms of discrimination because their state either voluntarily agreed to liability or under other theories. Always consult your attorney before assuming your organization is immune from lawsuits.