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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

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  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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