In enacting the FMLA, Congress found, among other things, that it is "important . . . that fathers and mothers be able to participate in early childrearing and the care of family members who have serious health conditions," 29 U.S.C. § 2601(a)(2), that the "lack of employment policies to accommodate working parents can force individuals to choose between job security and parenting," § 2601(a)(3), that "there is inadequate job security" for persons who might take medical leave, § 2601(a)(4), and that "the primary responsibility for family caretaking often falls on women" and has a greater effect on their work than it does on men, § 2601(a)(5). Notably absent is any finding concerning the existence, much less the prevalence, in public employment of personal sick leave practices that amounted to intentional gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. For example, Congress did not find that public employers refused to permit as much sick leave as the FMLA mandates with the intent of disadvantaging employees of one gender. (Indeed, it is doubtful that a practice of allowing less sick leave than the FMLA requires would even have a disparate impact on men and women.). Nor are we aware of any substantial evidence of such violations in the legislative record.This is stunningly well and concisely written and quite correct, though it is not the position the Court ultimately took in Nevada Department of Human Resources v Hibbs. I have a law review article on Hibbs, which you can read in PDF here. Alito took the position Justice Kennedy took in dissent in Hibbs. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion, which purported to apply Boerne and Kimel, but most certainly did not. You can argue that Boerne and Kimel were wrongly decided, but Alito was bound by them and duly and competently applied them. Anyone who tries to say that Alito is hostile to women's rights because of this decision is utterly wrong.
Moreover, even if there were relevant findings or evidence, the FMLA provisions at issue here would not be congruent or proportional. Unlike the Equal Protection Clause, which the FMLA is said to enforce, the FMLA does much more than require nondiscriminatory sick leave practices; it creates a substantive entitlement to sick leave. This requirement is "disproportionate to any unconstitutional conduct that conceivably could be targeted by the Act." Kimel, 120 S. Ct. at 645. It is "so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior." City of Boerne, 117 S. Ct. at 2170. For these reasons, the legislative scheme cannot be said to be congruent or proportional to any identified constitutional harm, and it cannot be said to be tailored to preventing any such harm. Accordingly, we hold that the FMLA provisions at issue here do not represent a valid exercise of Congress's power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment and that the FMLA does not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity. Cf. Lavia v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Corrections, 224 F.3d 190, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 18989 (3d Cir., 2000) (Title I of ADA).
Note: The FMLA is still supported by the commerce power. The issue under the 14th amendment only concerns whether the plaintiff can receive retroactive relief when the employer is the state.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Patterico points out an extremely important point about Alito's Chittister case: it was not about leave to take care of a family member, but about sick leave. What is the sex discrimination problem to be remedied with respect to self-care? Hibbs was about taking care of family members, so there was a way to connect the FMLA to the stereotyping of women as the main caregivers. But when it's a matter of taking care of yourself, where's the rights violation to enforce? Patterico links to Bench Memos and this Tenth Circuit case. The bottom line is that Alito was even more scrupulously correct than I've been portraying him. And it's not even about families. Even single folks with no responsibilities for others get this benefit. It may be nice, but it's not about remedying violations of constitutional rights.