Your AARP ; The Law
By Emily Sachar
; The issue: Can state workers receive monetary damages if they are
denied time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act?
Daniel Coleman, 59, of Baltimore worked at
the Maryland Court of Appeals for six years,
including four as executive director for procurement. But in August 2007 he took a 10-day
leave of absence for a medical condition. Within four hours of notifying his boss by email that
he had to take time off, he was told he could
either resign with 30 days’ leave or be immediately terminated. In the end, he was fired.
“I am still very emotional about this,” Cole-
man said in an interview. “This happened
in an organization that is supposed to stand
and cannot be sued for financial damages.
; ‘I am still very emotional about this,’ said
for justice.” At the time, Coleman
had one son in college and another
about to go. “In four hours, I went
from six figures [in salary] to zero,”
Coleman sued the Maryland Court of Appeals for denial of coverage under the Family
and Medical Leave Act of 1993. He claimed
that he was a victim of retaliation when he
was fired and should have been covered by
the FMLA’s self-care medical provisions.
But so far, two lower federal courts—the U.S.
District Court for the District of Maryland,
in 2009, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., in 2010—have
thrown out Coleman’s case on the grounds
that the agency where Coleman worked, because it is a state employer, is protected by
the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
; What it means to you: If you are a state
worker who needs a medical leave, check in
advance to see if the agency where you work
will grant one. Watch the outcome of the upcoming Supreme Court case. ;
Emily Sachar is a journalist and author
based in Brooklyn, N. Y.