Dixon-Gibson v. State of Delaware Department of Labor
MEMORANDUM ORDER GRANTING re 7 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction Over the Subject Matter filed by State of Delaware Department of Labor. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 8/15/2012. (rpg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
C.A. No. 11-884-LPS
STATE OF DELAWARE
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
By her complaint (D.I. 1), Plaintiff, Tressa Dixon-Gibson, seeks damages for
wrongful termination in violation ofthe provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
("FMLA") which guarantees leave for self-care. See 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(l)(D). 1 Defendant, the
State of Delaware Department of Labor, filed a motion to dismiss on multiple grounds, including
11th Amendment sovereign immunity. (D.I. 7)
Defendant's assertion of sovereign immunity constitutes a facial challenge to the
Court's subject matter jurisdiction. The Court "must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if 'the allegations
on the face of the complaint, taken as true, [do not] allege facts sufficient to invoke [its]
jurisdiction."' Karam v. Delaware DSCYF, 2010 WL 5343182, at *2 (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2010)
(quoting Licata v. US. Postal Serv., 33 F.3d 259,260 (3d Circ. 1994)). Where a state's
sovereign immunity is neither abrogated by Congress nor waived by the state, a suit by a citizen
seeking damages against a state in federal court must be dismissed for lack of subject matter
Although the complaint appeared to allege a Title VII violation as well, Plaintiff clarified
in briefing on the pending motion that she is only asserting an FMLA claim. (D.I. 11 at 2-4; see
also D.I. 12 at 10)
jurisdiction. See id. The same analysis applies to a suit against a state entity that qualifies as an
"arm ofthe state." See Regents ofthe Univ. ofCal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425,429-30 (1997).
The State of Delaware has not waived its sovereign immunity with regard to
FMLA self-care suits. See generally Karam, 2010 WL 5343182, at *5 ("[T]here is no indication
that Defendant [Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families] has
waived sovereign immunity under the FMLA."). There is also no dispute that the State of
Delaware Department of Labor is an arm ofthe state.
In Coleman v. Court ofAppeals of Maryland, 626 F.3d 187 (4th Cir. 2010), the
Fourth Circuit held that sovereign immunity bars suits under the self-care provision of the
FMLA. See also Chittister v. Dept. of Community and Economic Development, 226 F.3d 223,
229 (3d Cir. 2000) (holding same). The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review Coleman.
See No. 10-1016, 131 S.Ct. 3059 (2011). In briefing the pending motion to dismiss, Plaintiff
effectively acknowledged that the Court's decision in Coleman would be dispositive in this
proceeding. (D.I. 11 at 6 (Plaintiff stating, "The issue of Eleventh Amendment and sovereign
immunity applying to the FMLA's self-care provision is currently pending before the United
States Supreme Court in Coleman .... "); id. at 10 ("In regard to the state sovereign immunity
issues, plaintiff requests this Court not make a decision until there is a ruling in Coleman v.
Maryland Court ofAppeals (10-1016)."); D.I. 12 at 2)
On March 20, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit's decision in
Coleman. See_ U.S._, 2012 WL 912951, at *3 (Mar. 20, 2012). The Supreme Court stated:
"[i]n agreement with every Court of Appeals to have addressed this question, this Court now
holds that suits against States under this provision [i.e., the self-care provision, 29 U.S.C.
§ 2612(a)(l)(D),] are barred by the States' immunity as sovereigns in our federal system." Id.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs instant suit is barred by sovereign immunity and must be dismissed.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's motion to dismiss
(D.!. 7) is GRANTED. The Clerk shall CLOSE the case.
Dated: August 15,2012
~ ~. ~
UNITED TATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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