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Parker v. Scheck Mechanical Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 1, 2014

GENERAL PARKER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SCHECK MECHANICAL CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee

 Submitted August 18, 2014, [1]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 13-C-722 -- James F. Holderman, Judge.

General Parker, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Peoria, IL.

For Scheck Mechanical, Corp., Defendant - Appellee: Matthew J. Egan, Attorney, Brendan J. Nelligan, Attorney, Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, Chicago, IL.

Before BAUER, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 503

Hamilton, Circuit Judge

Plaintiff General Parker, an African American, alleges that he was fired from his job because of his race and in retaliation for complaints of racial discrimination. He filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. His suit never got off the ground because the district court thought that Parker was confused about which of two related companies--Scheck Mechanical Corporation or Scheck Industrial Corporation--employed him. The court reasoned that Parker had sued the wrong Scheck company and thus, at summary judgment, dismissed the suit. We disagree with that analysis, so we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In a charge of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, Parker asserted that " Scheck Industries" had fired him after just a few months on the job; he alleged that his race and several complaints to management about workplace discrimination had motivated his discharge. As best we can tell, the name " Scheck Industries" refers not to a legal entity but to a group of closely held construction companies including Scheck Mechanical and Scheck Industrial.

The EEOC issued Parker a right-to-sue letter, explaining that the agency had investigated but was unable to confirm his allegations. The agency's letter did not suggest that " Scheck Industries" never employed Parker or that an entity with that name did not exist. In fact, Parker's employer apparently used that name in dealing with the EEOC, since the agency's letter to Parker was copied to " Scheck Industries."

After receiving that letter, Parker decided to sue. In drafting his pro se complaint, he visited the " Scheck Industries" website but found it unhelpful in identifying the correct defendant. That website implies that " Scheck Industries" is a single company. For example, a visitor exploring " Career Opportunities" is told that " Scheck Industries has unique opportunities available where you can use your skills and make a difference for our Company and our Clients." See Career Opportunities, Scheck Industries, http://www.go scheck.com/contact/careers.php (last visited Dec. 1, 2014) (emphasis added). And visitors who select " Contact Us" are told that " Scheck Mechanical Corp." is the " corporate headquarters," while " Scheck Industrial Corp." is listed as one of several " regional offices." See Contact Us, Scheck Industries, http://www.goscheck.com/contact/index.php (last visited Dec. 1, 2014).

Like Scheck's website, Parker's complaint treats the different Scheck entities interchangeably, naming the defendant sometimes as " ...


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