The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES H. ALESIA
Before the court is defendants County of Cook and Michael F. Sheahan's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff Lenora Johnson, a correctional officer with the Cook County Department of Corrections ("DOC"), brings a five-count Amended Verified Complaint ("Complaint") against defendants County of Cook, a body politic and corporate; Michael F. Sheahan, Sheriff of Cook County; Local Union No. 714 -- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and Jean Jackson. Defendants Cook County and Sheahan have moved for summary judgment on Counts I (employment discrimination) and III (retaliatory discharge). Since the filing of the motion, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Count III. The court will therefore deny the motion as moot in part to reflect that the motion partially attacks a dismissed count. This opinion resolves the motion as regards Count I.
Regarding Count I, defendants raise the argument that plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies because she did not name Cook County or Sheahan in her administrative charge. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The charge formally named only the Cook County Department of Corrections. (Motion for Summary Judgment Ex. F.)
"Ordinarily a party not named in an EEOC charge may not be sued under Title VII." Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, 657 F.2d 890, 905 (7th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1017, 102 S. Ct. 1710, 72 L. Ed. 2d 134 (1982). There are exceptions, however, chief among them "where the party has been provided with adequate notice of the charge, under circumstances where the party has been given the opportunity to participate in conciliation proceedings aimed at voluntary compliance." Id. Given that EEOC complainants often operate with a layman's understanding of pleading and jurisdiction, charges are to be "construed with 'utmost liberality' and parties sufficiently named or alluded to in the factual statement are to be joined." Id. at 906 (footnote omitted).
The court begins by noting that the only charge it is considering specifically is the first, February 3, 1992, charge. There are two later charges attached to the Motion for Summary Judgment, but only the February 3, 1992, charge is referenced in Count I of the Complaint. Since the court ultimately decides that this charge allows plaintiff to proceed against the moving defendants, plaintiff is not prejudiced by the court's only looking at this charge. See id. at 905 n.29.
Defendants' argument depends upon distinctions between the DOC, the sheriff and the county. The court looks at the sheriff and county's arguments separately, and then examines one final consideration applicable to both.
Defendants argue that Cook County is "a separate and distinct entity" from the DOC. (Defendants [sic] Reply Brief at 3.) But correspondence from the DOC to plaintiff concerning her employment has the county seal above the words "Cook County Department of Corrections." (See, e.g., Motion for Summary Judgment Ex. B.) Two "separate and distinct" entities would probably not hold themselves out this way. Because of the respective dates of the correspondence in the record and the EEOC charge, there is no indication defendant relied on the correspondence in making the decision to name only the DOC. The court's point, rather, is that it is unlikely that it is the practice of the DOC to put on its letterhead the seal of an organization with which it considers itself to have absolutely nothing to do.