7th Circuit rules on FMLA case

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a medical-leave decision from an Indianapolis judge who's since joined that appellate bench.

In Steven Peters v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., No. 06-4290, the three-judge panel reversed and remanded the case involving a Family and Medical Leave Act claim. Steven Peters had worked for the pharmaceutical company since 2001 and worked from his home in Indianapolis, marketing products to doctors and healthcare professionals. He injured his neck and shoulder and eventually filed an injury claim in 2002, and then had surgery and took time off from work starting in December 2002.

Eventually, the company decided to replace Peters in April 2003 and Peters sued in federal court on FMLA claims and state claims. The company argued that Peters wasn't eligible for FMLA based on a provision that excluded workers at worksites with less than 50 employees, but Peters argued that he didn't receive the 12 weeks he was required and Gilead was estopped because of employee handbook guidelines detailing the time off.

Judge John D. Tinder, who has since joined the 7th Circuit, concluded that Peters had not established the elements of equitable estoppel and granted summary judgment for Gilead.

The 7th Circuit wrote that Judge Tinder didn't address whether Gilead's promises are actionable as a contract or under promissory estoppel, though it pointed out that it was understandable because the parties focused arguments on a different aspect of the law and the equitable estoppel theory as a means of establishing eligibility under FMLA.

"As we have explained, however, using equitable estoppel to block an employer from asserting a statutory defense to the FMLA liability is not the same as using promissory estoppel to enforce a promise by an employer to allow 12 weeks of medical leave," Judge Diane Sykes wrote. "Promissory estoppel is a well-established state-law remedy; on the other hand, the availability of equitable estoppel to block a statutory defense to FMLA eligibility has been assumed but not decided in this circuit. We think the prudent course is to remand this case for consideration of Gilead's liability under state law."

She added that the leave provisions in Gilead's employee handbook may be enforceable as a contract under Indiana law, and at the least, are promises giving rise to recovery under promissory estoppel.


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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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