Civil Rights

This summary also appears under Employment & Labor Law

 

Issues: Whether the defendant-employer was entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's age discrimination claim; Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (the ELCRA) (MCL 37.2201 et seq.); Geiger v. Tower Auto.; Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture; McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green; Schoonmaker v. Spartan Graphics Leasing, LLC; Provenzano v. LCI Holdings, Inc.; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (29 USC § 2601 et seq.); Whether the plaintiff was an "eligible employee"; Kinds v. Ohio Bell Tel. Co.; 29 CFR § 825.108(d); § 825.110(e); Whether the defendant-Road Commission was "equitably estopped" from denying that the plaintiff was an "eligible employee"; Dobrowski v. Jay Dee Contractors, Inc.; Myers v. Tursso Co. (ND IA); Goode v. Heritage Hospice, Inc. (Unpub. ED KY)

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit

Case Name: Tilley v. Kalamazoo Cnty. Rd. Comm'n

e-Journal Number: 59158

Judge(s): Leitman, Suhrheinrich, and Griffin

 

[This appeal was from the WD-MI.] Although the court affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-Road Commission summary judgment on plaintiff-Tilley's ELCRA age discrimination claim, it reversed on the plaintiff's FMLA claims because an issue of material fact remained whether the Road Commission was equitably estopped from denying that the plaintiff was an "eligible employee." The 59-year-old plaintiff failed to establish his prima facie case under the ELCRA because he could not show that he was replaced by a younger worker and he did not establish that any younger Road Commission employee "engaged in similar misconduct - i.e., failed to complete assignments by stated deadlines - yet remained employed with, and/or undisciplined by, the Road Commission." The court rejected his contention that the Road Commission "engaged in a pattern of age discrimination" when hiring and terminating its employees. Instead, the district court correctly concluded that while plaintiff's "superiors may have harbored animus" toward him, he failed to show that it was because of his age. However, the district court erred by granting the Road Commission summary judgment on the plaintiff's FMLA claim. He "did not qualify as an 'eligible employee'" under the FMLA because the Road Commission did not meet or exceed the FMLA's "50/75-Employee Threshold." However, a material question remained whether the Road Commission was equitably estopped from raising non-eligibility as a defense. To successfully plead equitable estoppel, he had to show "'(1) a definite misrepresentation as to a material fact, (2) a reasonable reliance on the misrepresentation, and (3) a resulting detriment to the party reasonably relying on the misrepresentation.'" Tilley's affidavit supported his claim that the defendant's "Personnel Manual . . . contained a clear misrepresentation as to his eligibility to apply for FMLA benefits[,]" and he also established that he "reasonably relied" on this statement to his detriment. Even though there may have been "reasons to doubt the veracity of Tilley's assertion that in the face of a suspected heart attack he would have remained at work to complete the then-due assignment," he swore "under oath that but for his reliance on the statements in the Manual, he would have stayed on the job for the short time necessary to complete the 'brief finishing touches' remaining on the draft of the job description. The ultimate question of Tilley's credibility is for the jury." On remand, the district court must also address his FMLA interference and retaliation claims.

 

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