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Jones v. Man 2 Men Usa, Corporation

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 30, 2013

RHONDA M. JONES, Plaintiff,


ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

From 2003 to 2006, Plaintiff Rhonda Jones worked at Man 2 Men, a men's clothing boutique. Man 2 Men was in a seven-store mini mall that also contained City Sports. Plaintiff alleges that a manager of City Sports sexually harassed her and then had her terminated from Man 2 Men in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. and the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/2-101. et seq . Plaintiff asserts claims for race discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation under both statutes. Before the Court is Defendant City Sports' motion for summary judgment [103], which maintains that a reasonable jury could not conclude that City Sports was Plaintiff's employer for the purposes of Title VII. For the reasons stated below, the Court agrees and grants Defendant City Sports' motion for summary judgment [103]. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the parties' supplemental briefing, Defendant Man 2 Men did not have enough employees to qualify as an employer for purposes of Title VII, and therefore Plaintiff's Title VII claims against Defendants Man 2 Men (and, by extension, Roseland Fashion & Sportswear) are dismissed. The Court dismisses Plaintiff's state law claims without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to refile those claims in state court.

I. Background

From approximately 2003 to 2006, Plaintiff Rhonda Jones, an African-American woman, worked at a clothing boutique, Man 2 Men, selling men's suits, dress clothing, and shoes. Man 2 Men is a corporation solely owned by Andrew Bae, which has no shareholders, directors or officers other than Bae. Bae operated two Man 2 Men stores, and, except for a couple of occasions, Plaintiff worked at the Man 2 Men store located at 6535 S. Halsted in Chicago.

City Sports operated a store in the same mini mall as Man 2 Men. Plaintiff claims that Bo Han, a City Sports employee, began sexually harassing her in April of 2005. She also testified that in 2006 Bo Han said that he was going to have her "black ass" fired, and, two days later, Bo Han had a conversation with Bae, after which Bae terminated Plaintiff. At the time of Plaintiff's termination, Bae was six months behind in rent and he had previously told his employees that he would need to close the store. According to Plaintiff, Bae "terminated Plaintiff's employment because the Man 2 Men store was in financial trouble, his brother-in-law was not happy with the money he invested in the store, and he could not afford to pay Ms. Jones." Plaintiff also testified that Han spoke with Bae on the same day that Bae fired Plaintiff. Plaintiff does not know what Han and Bae discussed, and Bae testified that he did not discuss Plaintiff's termination with Han prior to or after Plaintiff's termination. Additionally, prior to her termination, Plaintiff never complained to Bae about Han's allegedly harassing treatment, and Bae was not aware of any harassment.

Man 2 Men closed approximately six to eight months after Bae terminated Plaintiff. Because Man 2 Men no longer exists, Plaintiff also has sued Roseland Fashion & Sportswear, Inc. as a successor in interest. Bae has not associated with City Sports since he closed Man 2 Men.

A. Man 2 Men's Employees

The work schedule for Man 2 Men employees changed every week. Bae's mother would draft the schedule and post it on the wall. City Sports' employees or ownership did not have any input into creating Man 2 Men's work schedule. Plaintiff, who was paid cash daily, typically worked five days per week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the original summary judgment briefing, Defendant maintained that "[t]hroughout the life of Man 2 Men, Andrew Bae only had about three or four employees." Plaintiff denied the statement, and claimed that Andrew Bae had more than three or four employees through the life of Man 2 Men, including Andrew Bae, Amy Bae, Angie Bae, Yoo Jin Bae, Jin Soo Han, Meeka, Vonnie, Vonnie's nephew, Quincy, Rashad and an older gentleman." The Court asked the parties to supplement their arguments about whether Man 2 Men satisfied Title VII's numeracy requirement. Plaintiff responded that "the full record now reflects that Man 2 Man's employees include but are not limited to: Andrew Bae, Amy Bae, Angie Bae, Yoo Jin Bae, Jin Soo Han, Meeka, Vonnie, Vonnie's nephew, Quincy, Rashad, Luando Morris, Leslie, two unknown male employees, and Plaintiff herself."

B. Relationship between Man 2 Men and City Sports

Man 2 Men store was located in a mini mall. There were two entrances, seven different shops, and a gate that separated each store from the mall common area. Man 2 Men and City Sports each had their own signs within the mall and did not share any space within the mall other than the common area. Man 2 Men had a lease with and paid rent to Palm Realty from October 1, 2003, through September 30, 2008. Palm Realty is an affiliated company of Palm USA, Inc., an Illinois corporation that owns and operates Palm USA Inc. d/b/a City Sports ("City Sports"). City Sports sells sports clothing and related merchandise for men, women, and children. City Sports also had a lease with Palm Realty Company. James Song, Wan Lee, and Roy Kim are the only officers, directors, and shareholders of Palm USA. None of the owners of City Sports have ever been an officer or shareholder of Man 2 Men and vice versa.

Bo Han was in charge of City Sports' day-to-day operations. In addition to his managerial duties at City Sports, Han was responsible for collecting rent on behalf of Palm Realty, performing certain maintenance in the mall, and overseeing security. Bae would contact Palm Realty through Han if there were maintenance issues. Han would then contact Palm Realty, who would deal with the issues. Additionally, Plaintiff testified that Man 2 Men employees went to Han when they needed light bulbs, soap, or toilet paper for the bathrooms, or paper for the fax machines or cash registers. Han also would tell Man 2 Men employees to turn down the radio or put things in order when, for example, boxes could be seen from outside or when a mannequin was dressed in out-of-season clothing. Plaintiff further testified that on occasion Han would enter Man 2 Men and instruct employees to end their lunch breaks. On at least two occasions, Han opened Man 2 Men's gate for other employees when Plaintiff did not arrive at work on time to open the gate. With respect to security issues, Plaintiff testified that Bae instructed Plaintiff to go to Han if customers at Man 2 Men were causing problems. Plaintiff did so on at least one occasion when one of her coworkers was pepper sprayed during an altercation at Man 2 Men. Bo Han also hosted social events in the mall's common spaces when City Sports and Man 2 Men had high sales days. Further, Plaintiff testified that "a couple of times" in three years she gave Man 2 Men's daily earnings and sales report to Bo Han to pass along to Bae when Plaintiff could not transfer the money directly to Bae or the other Man 2 Men store.

According to Plaintiff, she believed that Man 2 Men and City Sports were a family business. Jin Soo Han, [1] City Sports' general manager and Andrew Bae's brother-in-law, [2] gave Plaintiff a gold chain for stopping a robbery in the mall and, in December 2005, paid Plaintiff and another Man 2 Men employee $500 Christmas bonuses. Plaintiff also testified that Jin Soo Han often told Plaintiff that she was doing a good job.[3] Plaintiff also received a discount when shopping at City Sports. Further, Plaintiff testified that she occasionally worked at City Sports when Man 2 Men was slow or when a City Sports' employee would ask her to help put together an outfit for a customer; however, Bae never instructed Plaintiff to do so. Plaintiff admitted that she was not compensated by City Sports for this time; rather, she was paid daily in cash by Bae's mother or his sister, Amy. If Bae's mother or Amy were not at Man 2 Men at the end of Plaintiff's shift, a City Sports manager named Jiffy would give Plaintiff an envelope containing her daily wages.

In 2006, Jin Soo Han loaned Bae $10, 000, which Plaintiff believed to be an investment in Man 2 Men. However, Jin Soo Han testified that while he and his wife loaned Andrew Bae $10, 000, they never invested in Man 2 Men, contributed any capital to Man 2 Men, or gave Man 2 Men any goods, equipment, or supplies. Rather, Jin Soo Han testified that the $10, 000 loan was a personal loan to a family member who was having financial difficulty. The record is undisputed that, either before or after the loan, Bae never gave Jin Soo Han or Bo Han the authority to supervise, manage, control, or direct any of Man 2 Men's employees. The record also is undisputed that Jin Soo Han did not set Plaintiff's work schedule, hours, or pay. Plaintiff admits that Bae never instructed any Man 2 Men employees to assist City Sports, and Bae was not aware of any City Sports' employee assisting Man 2 Men. And, as previously indicated, ...

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