I Can't Believe We Haven't Posted on This Yet: Supreme Court Gets It Right
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs. The case concerned whether extending the Family Medical Leave Act protections to state employees is constitutional. Quite honestly, I have been holding my breath for this one. It pitted two competing interests: states' rights versus gender discrimination. Fortunately, the Court held that state employees are entitled to FMLA protections and remedies by a 6 - 3 vote.
Interestingly, Chief Justice Rehnquist, a staunch proponent of states' rights, wrote the majority opinion. It is a reasonably thoughtful analysis of gender discrimination in the workplace based on the notion that women are the primary caregivers. In Hibbs, the husband took FMLA leave to care for his injured wife and was terminated. (Did you notice it was the Department of Human Resources? Um, shouldn't HR departments know how to follow HR related laws? Or is that asking too much?) The majority opinion also attacked the dissenting opinion's argument that FMLA protections are unnecessary because states are doing such a great job of handling family leave. Seems someone is out of touch with reality. I love it when the various opnions attack one another.
Justices O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer joined Rehnquist's opinion, while Justice Stevens filed a concurring opinion. Justice Kennedy wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas (ooh I'm shocked). I'm really pleased with the 6 - 3 vote. There was much speculation that the decision would be too close to call and that Justice O'Connor would be the swing vote.
Now my only question is: Which 15 states give women one year of extended maternity? Hmmm. Further investigation is warranted!