Avila & Shaddow Attorneys at Law
Southern California 866-450-4LAW
San Fernando Valley 818-676-9658
Nationwide Toll Free 866-450-4LAW
E-mail icon Se habla español
Main navigation search

Aggressive Protection of Your Rights Under The Law Schedule a Consultation

Equitable estoppel can apply to the FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to provide employees the ability to take a leave of absence for medical or family issues without fear of losing employment. The act as written applies only to companies with over 50 employees. However, one court has determined it can apply to smaller companies, depending on how the company communicates with its employees. Smaller firms, including those in Los Angeles, should take notice of the court's reasoning.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case revolved around a discharged employee who was suffering a medical condition and missed work. The employee met two criteria for falling under the FMLA. First, he was employed with the company for more than 12 months. Second, he had worked more than 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months.

The company did not have more than 50 employees located within a 75 mile radius. This is the third factor for eligibility under FMLA. However, this provision was not mentioned to the employee as a requirement to be eligible. Failure to advise the employee of that requirement created an issue for allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

In its reasoning, the court used an old contract law doctrine called "equitable estoppel" to resolve the issue. If a person relies on a statement of one party, or the silence of one party on a particular fact, a court of equity may at times prevent the party from asserting a defense that is inconsistent with the statement. In the case, the court found the failure of the company to state that FMLA didn't apply to them was sufficient for a reasonable employee to believe that it was, in fact, a covered employer.

In a dispute with an employer, sometimes the employment contract or handbook is not all of the pertinent evidence. Statements an employer may give, failure to disclose certain facts or promises made can at times be used in a successful suit for wrongful discharge. This could be important to an attorney representing an employee in an FMLA case.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  1. Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards & Legal Ability | AV PREEMINENT
  2. Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
  3. Avvo
  4. LACBA, Los Angeles County Bar Association
  5. Super Lawyers
  6. California Employment Lawyers Association

Need Help? Have Questions? Contact our attorneys for immediate assistance

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Southern California
21800 Oxnard Street
Suite 1180 - Penthouse
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Toll Free: 866-450-4LAW
Phone: 818-676-9658
Fax: 818-337-7265
Map & Directions