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EQUAL EMPL. OPPORTUNITY v. OAK LAWN LTD.

December 1, 1997

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY, COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
OAK LAWN LTD. II d/b/a OAK LAWN HOLIDAY INN, OAK LAWN INN, INCORPORATED, OAK LAWN LODGE, INCORPORATED, WIEGEL & KILGALLEN SALES CO., THE ESTATE OF GEORGE E. WIEGEL, SR. and HOTEL, MOTEL, CLUB, CAFETERIA, RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES & BARTENDERS UNION, LOCAL 450 AFL-CIO, AND GEORGE E. WIEGEL, JR. AND ANNE CARYL BOYD AS CO-TRUSTEES OF THE FAMILY TRUST u/w/o GEORGE E. WIEGEL, SR. AND THE MARITAL TRUST u/w/o GEORGE E. WIEGEL, SR., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought suit against various entities and individuals pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Certain defendants, Oak Lawn Limited II ("Ltd. II"), Wiegel & Kilgallen Sales Co. ("W&K"), the Estate of George E. Wiegel, Sr. (the "Estate"), and George E. Wiegel, Jr. and Anne Caryl Boyd as co-trustees of the Marital Trust u/w/o George E. Wiegel, Sr. and the Family Trust u/w/o George E. Wiegel, Sr. (the "Trusts"), seek summary judgment on the ground that they are not employers within the meaning of Title VII. The EEOC filed a cross motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration that they are employers under Title VII. For the reasons set forth below, the EEOC's motion for summary judgment is granted and the defendants' motion is denied.

 Background

 In February 1996, the EEOC filed the present action against the Oak Lawn Lodge, Inc. (the "Lodge"), the Oak Lawn Inn, Inc. (the "Inn"), and Ltd. II. The complaint alleged discriminatory hiring of employees by the Lodge and the Inn. In October 1996, the Estate and W&K were added as additional defendants.

 The Lodge and the Inn are Illinois corporations running the operations of the Holiday Inn Oak Lawn ("Holiday Inn"). The Holiday Inn has more than 15 employees, but Ltd. II, the Estate, and W&K either have no employees or less than 15 employees.

 Motion for Summary Judgment

 As a jurisdictional prerequisite to the maintenance of a Title VII action, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant employer is "a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 15 or more employees . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). The defendants first contend that the Estate cannot be liable because it is an individual, and individuals are not liable under Title VII. In the alternative, the defendants argue that even if the Estate could be liable, neither Ltd. II, W&K nor the Estate are employers within the meaning of Title VII because they do not have more than 15 employees and cannot be viewed as a single employer or integrated enterprise.

 A. The Estate can be Liable Under Title VII

 An individual who does not independently meet Title VII's definition of an "employer" cannot be held liable under Title VII. EEOC v. AIC Security Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1279-82 (7th Cir. 1995) (an ADA case applying reasoning from other circuits in Title VII cases); Williams v Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 553-54 (7th Cir. 1995) (applying AIC to Title VII cases). This means that an individual, who does not employ any employees but is merely a supervisor for a company, cannot be personally liable for unlawful acts of discrimination. However, if the individual is a sole proprietor, with 15 or more employees, the sole proprietor is liable under Title VII. AIC, 55 F.3d at 1280 n.2.

 In this case, it is undisputed that the Estate filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 1994 a Schedule C - Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship), indicating that it was a sole proprietor managing a hotel complex. In addition, the Estate admitted that it had the authority to carry on, control, and administer the operations of the Lodge and the Inn. Therefore, as a sole proprietor, running a hotel business, the Estate can be liable under Title VII if it meets the statutory definition of an employer.

 B. Single Employer/Integrated Enterprise

 The EEOC argues that the Lodge, the Inn, Ltd. II, W&K, and the Estate are employers under the single employer or integrated enterprise theory. Under this judicially-created theory, "the interrelation of two nominally separate business entities may lead a court to consider them as a single entity." Rogers v. Sugar Tree Prods., Inc., 7 F.3d 577, 582 (7th Cir. 1993). Although this theory was originally applied in the labor relations area, see, e.g., N.L.R.B. v. Western Temporary Servs., Inc., 821 F.2d 1258, 1266 (7th Cir. 1987), it was extended to the definition of employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Rogers, 7 F.3d 577 at 582. Since the ADEA was modeled after Title VII and its definition of employer is almost identical, I find that this doctrine can also be applied to Title VII cases.

 To determine whether the Estate, Ltd. II, W&K and the Lodge and Inn are a single employer, I must examine whether they are "highly integrated with respect to ownership and operations." Id. at 583 (quotation omitted). The factors to consider include:

 
(1) Interrelation of operations, i.e. common offices, common record keeping, shared bank ...

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