Generally, state agencies can’t be sued in federal court for federal employment law violations unless they have explicitly agreed to give up their right to sovereign immunity. Even so, federal courts are reluctant to leave employees out in the cold.
Recent case: Carrie Gorton worked for the Sullivan County Board of Cooperative Educational Services, claiming she had suffered sexual harassment at the hands of a co-worker. The school agency claimed it was an arm of the state and therefore immune. It had been created under New York state law in order to let school districts share the costs of some educational expenses.
The 2nd Circuit said the agency was no different than public school districts, which have long been subject to employee lawsuits and not immune under sovereign immunity. The appeals court let the lawsuit proceed. (Gorton v. Gettel, et al., No. 07-3190, 2nd Cir., 2009)
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