Public employees seem to be one of the favorite targets of the right and they now find themselves under additional scrutiny courtesy of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is considering whether or not public employees have their right to hold states accountable under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). THE FMLA allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off to deal with either a personal or family health concern. A worker at a private company can sue for monetary damages if he or she is fired for taking time off under the FMLA (like for a pregnancy or to take care of a sick child).
But some courts have ruled that public employees do not share that right. Or, more correctly, that the Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity clause shields states from legal liability in cases like this.
The reason the FMLA exists was to make sure employees could request leave without fear of retaliation. If that does not exist for state employes then all of the FMLA’s leave provisions and job protections are essentially meaningless.
So this is the pressure cooker state workers currently exist in: a growing hostility to the ability to negotiate for raises, health insurance benefits, and possibly, the inability to take medical leave for something like a pregnancy without fear of being fired. To make matters worse, the FLMA doesn’t mandate paid leave, simply that a worker that needs time off to care for a family member or for herself can do so without getting fired. This is how we show our teachers and first responders the value of their commitment to our communities–by nickel and diming them to death.
Photo from Emery Co. Photo via flickr.