United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
February 25, 1999
ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL CORP., ET AL.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gettleman, District Judge.
Plaintiff United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
has sued defendants Rockwell International Corporation
("Rockwell"), Cambridge Industries, Inc. ("Cambridge") and
International Union United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural
Implement Workers, under Title I of the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and
Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, arising out of
Rockwell's use of an abnormal result on a nerve conduction test
to refuse to hire applicants at Rockwell's Centralia, Illinois
facility. Rockwell sold the Centralia facility to defendant
Cambridge on August 1, 1994. Plaintiff has moved for partial
summary judgment seeking a determination that Cambridge is
Rockwell's successor in interest and can be held liable for
Rockwell's alleged violations.
Although the Seventh Circuit has not expressly adopted the
doctrine of successor liability in ADA cases, it has done so in
cases arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title
VII). Musikiwamba v. ESSI, Inc., 760 F.2d 740 (7th Cir. 1985)
(Section 1981); Wheeler v. Snyder Buick, Inc., 794 F.2d 1228
(7th Cir. 1986) (Title VII). Because the ADA incorporates the
powers, remedies and procedures of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 12117,
the court concludes that successor liability is available under
the ADA. Whether plaintiff can succeed in its successor liability
claim against Cambridge depends on whether: 1) Cambridge had
prior notice of the claim against Rockwell; 2) Rockwell is able,
or was able prior to the purchase, to provide the relief
requested; and 3) a sufficient continuity in the business
operations of the predecessor and successor exist. Wheeler, 794
F.2d at 1236. The first two factors are the most critical,
because it would be grossly unfair, except in the most
exceptional circumstances, to impose successor liability on an
innocent purchaser when the predecessor is fully capable of
providing relief. Id. (citing Musikiwamba).
In the instant case, it is undisputed that Cambridge had prior
notice of the claim and that there is sufficient continuity in
the business operations. Cambridge argues, however, that it is
not needed as a defendant because Rockwell can provide complete
relief to plaintiffs. It is undisputed that Rockwell can provide
complete monetary relief. Plaintiff requests more than monetary
relief, however; it also seeks hiring and retroactive seniority.
Cambridge suggests that Rockwell can provide this relief at its
other plants. Plaintiff correctly counters, however, that there
is no evidence that Rockwell has another plant in the Southern
Illinois area, and the court agrees that a prevailing party in an
employment discrimination case should not have to relocate to
receive the employment to which he/she was originally entitled,
especially when the plant to which he/she had originally applied
remains in operation. See N.L.R.B. v. Madison Courier, Inc.,
472 F.2d 1307, 1314, 1319 (D.C.Cir. 1972) (Striking workers not
required to seek work in areas located over 50 miles from their
homes in order to mitigate damages).
Finally, Cambridge argues that successor liability should not
be allowed in the instant case because plaintiff seeks both
compensatory and punitive damages. The court need not reach this
issue, however, because it is undisputed that Rockwell has the
pay all compensatory and punitive damages and has indemnified
Cambridge against any monetary damage award.
Accordingly, the court grants plaintiffs motion for partial
summary judgment and concludes that defendant Cambridge is
defendant Rockwell's successor.
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