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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The plaintiff-appellant, Melissa Minard, was employed by the defendant-appellee, ITC Deltacom Communications, at its Baton Rouge Field Sales Office. In May 2002, Minard requested leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act to undergo surgery to treat a serious medial condition. IRC granted Ms. Minard’s request for FMLA leave in a written memorandum entitled Request for Family or Medical Leave, which specifically stated that she was an ���eligible employee under the Family and Medical Leave Act and that she had “a right” under the FMLA for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. The memorandum also informed Minard that her requested leave would be counted against her annual FMLA entitlement. Minard took the granted leave, but on the day she was scheduled to return to work, ITC terminated her employment rather than restoring her to her former or an equivalent position as required by the act. After its issuance of the memorandum, and after Minard had taken leave and undergone surgery, ITC discovered that Minard was not an eligible employee under the act at the pertinent time, because when she requested leave, IRC employed less than 50 employees at or within 75 miles of the worksite at which she was employed. Minard filed suit under the FMLA Feb. 26, 2003. ITC answered that Minard was not an “eligible employee” under the FMLA. Ms Minard amended her complaint to contend, in the alternative, that ITC is equitably estopped to deny that she was an eligible employee under the FMLA when she requested leave, because she relied to her detriment upon IRC’s representation that she was at that time an eligible employee under the act and therefore entitled to reinstatement upon returning from her medical leave. ITC moved for summary judgment, on the ground that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, because on the date Ms Minard requested leave it employed less than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite where she was employed. Ms. Minard opposed the motion with evidence attempting to show that the prescribed workforce exceeded 50 employees at that time and, alternatively, that she had relied to her detriment upon ITC’s representation that she was an eligible employee under the FMLA and entitled to the requested leave and subsequent reinstatement. The district court granted ITC’s motion for summary judgment. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court, in Arbaugh v. Y & H Corporation, dba The Moonlight Caf(c), 126 S.Ct. 1235 (2006) recently clarified the distinction between the requirements for federal subject matter jurisdiction and the elements of a federal claim for relief. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Arbaugh, the court concludes that the definition section of the FMLA, which defines 13 terms used in the statute, including the term “eligible employee,” is a substantive ingredient of a plaintiff’s claim for relief, not a jurisdictional limitation. Accordingly, �2611(2)(B)(ii) ��� which excludes from the term “eligible employee” any employee of an employer who is employed at a worksite at which such employer employs less than 50 employees if the total number of employees employed by that employer within 75 miles of that worksite is less than 50 � does not circumscribe federal-court subject-matter jurisdiction. This 50-employee threshold appears in the definitions section, separate from the jurisdictional section, and does not speak in jurisdictional terms or refer in any way to the jurisdiction of the district courts. Arbaugh counsels that, “When Congress does not rank a statutory limitation on coverage as jurisdictional [as it chose not to do in � 2617(2)B(ii)], courts should treat the restriction as non-jurisdictional in character.” Applying the Supreme Court’s Arbaugh bright line rule here, the court concludes that the threshold number of employees for application of the FMLA is an element of a plaintiff’s claim for relief, not a jurisdictional limitation. Since Arbaugh was decided Feb. 22, 2006, two other circuits have recognized and applied its bright line to conclude that limiting or qualifying language in a federal statute other than Title VII, separate from its jurisdictional section, that does not speak in jurisdictional terms or refer to the jurisdiction of the federal courts, places no constriction upon the statute’s clearly designated jurisdictional provision. Subsequent to Arbaugh, a circuit court applied Arbaugh and held that Title VII’s employee-numerosity requirement is an element of the plaintiff’s claim, rather than a jurisdictional limitation. Faulkner v. Woods Transportation Inc., 2006 WL 869709 (11th Cir. 2006). For these reasons, the court concludes that Arbaugh has clearly rejected the view that employee-numerosity requirements in the FMLA and other statutes are jurisdictional rather than simply an element of a plaintiff’s claim for relief. Applying the Restatement principles of equitable estoppel adopted as federal law by the Supreme Court in Heckler v. Community Health Servs. of Crawford County Inc., 467 U.S. 51 (1984), the court concludes that ITC unintentionally made a definite misrepresentation to Minard that she was an “eligible employee” under FMLA at the time she requested leave and that she reasonably relied upon that misrepresentation in taking leave and undergoing surgery for the protection of her health. ITC strongly challenges, however, whether Minard so relied to her detriment, contending that she would have been forced to undergo her surgery at that time regardless of whether she had been informed that she was entitled to FMLA leave or whether ITC had granted it. The court finds there is a genuine dispute between the parties as to material issues of fact. OPINION:Dennis, J.; King, C.J., Jolly and Dennis, JJ.

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