United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
WILLIAM R. SEEMAN, Plaintiff,
PJMP, LLC and RENDEL'S INC., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. LEINENWEBER, JUDGE
William R. Seeman sued Defendants PJMP, LLC
(“PJMP”) and Rendel's Inc.
(“Rendel's”) for disability discrimination,
alleging that they violated the Americans with Disabilities
Act (the “ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et
seq., by firing him because of his depression.
Both Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that
they are not “employers” within the meaning of 42
U.S.C. § 12111(5) and thus cannot be held liable. For
the reasons to follow, the Court grants Defendant PJMP's
Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 46] but denies Defendant
Rendel's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 42].
following facts are undisputed except as otherwise noted.
(Although Defendants have filed separate statements of
undisputed fact, they are identical except for one additional
paragraph in PJMP's. For convenience, the Court will cite
to this more inclusive set of materials and attribute it to
is a vehicle dealership that also provides repair and body
shop services out of two locations: 119 Republic Avenue and
40 Mills Road, both in Joliet, Illinois. (ECF No. 48
(“Defs.' SUF”) ¶ 4; accord, ECF
No. 58 (“Pl.'s Resp.”) ¶ 4.)
Rendel's filed its articles of incorporation with the
Illinois Secretary of State on May 28, 1965. (Id.
¶ 9.) For many years, Rendel's included a towing
operation, but it was informed in 2012 that it could no
longer secure workers' compensation insurance while still
operating a towing and recovery business. (Id.
¶ 5.) Rendel's solution was to form a separate
limited liability company, PJMP, to house its towing and
recovery operation. (Id. ¶ 6; see
also, ECF Nos. 84, 85 (“Defs.' Resp.”)
¶¶ 1-2.) In May 2012, PJMP filed Articles of
Organization with the Illinois Secretary of State and
executed an operating agreement. (Defs.' SUF ¶ 7;
accord, Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 7.)
conducts its business out of Rendel's 40 Mills Road
location, and it pays monthly rent to Rendel's to the
tune of $5, 000. (Defs.' SUF ¶¶ 3, 11;
accord, Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 3; cf., Id.
¶ 11.) PJMP has a separate office on the premises with a
separate cashier. (See, Defs.' SUF at Ex. D
(“Mazor Tr.”) at 30:18-34:9.) Both companies have
separate bank accounts. (Defs.' SUF ¶ 10;
accord, Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 10.) All the vehicles
PJMP uses for towing and recovery services are Rendel's
trucks, and it leases these vehicles from Rendel's for
$40, 000 a month. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) PJMP
“internally allocate[s]” certain of its expenses
to Rendel's but it is unclear whether money is
accordingly transferred between accounts. (Pl.'s Resp.
¶ 12.) There is a collective bargaining agreement in
place between Rendel's and Teamsters Local Union No. 179,
and it includes classifications of workers such as tow truck
drivers. (ECF No. 56 (“Pl.'s SAUF”) ¶
36; Defs.' Resp. ¶ 36.)
does business under the assumed name “Rendel's
Towing.” (Pl.'s Resp. at Ex. 10; Defs.' Resp.
¶¶ 25-31.) The two entities are presented as one to
the public on the Rendel's website, on the trucks PJMP
operates, and on the uniforms its tow truck drivers wear -
all of which include only the Rendel's name and logo.
(See, Pl.'s SAUF ¶¶ 23-27, 40;
accord, Defs.' Resp. ¶¶ 23-27, 40.)
Rendel's has one phone number for all services, including
towing and recovery; PJMP does not have a separate phone book
listing; and customers seeking either repair or towing
services call the Rendel's number, are thanked for
calling “Rendel's, ” and are transferred to
the PJMP tow dispatcher if they need towing or recovery
services. (Id. ¶¶ 28- 29.) PJMP uses
“Rendel's”-inscribed letterhead and, although
PJMP issues invoices bearing the PJMP name to customers who
receive only towing or recovery services, customers who also
receive repair services are generally invoiced on one form
bearing the Rendel's name (unless the customer requests
separate invoices). (Id. ¶ 31.) Such customers
usually pay with one check or one credit card payment; the
funds get deposited into a Rendel's account and “a
ticket for the tow amount is posted to PJMP's account so
that an adjustment can be made on the books at the end of the
year.” (Id. ¶ 32.) PJMP tow truck drivers
do not have a separate health insurance plan but instead are
members of Rendel's group plan, and they also fill out
vacation requisition forms bearing Rendel's logo.
(Id. ¶¶ 37-38.)
of the Polcyn family own and operate Rendel's and PJMP.
Patrick J. Polcyn (“PJ”) owns and is President of
both entities. (Defs.' SUF ¶¶ 17-18;
accord, Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 17-18.) PJ was
not paid a salary or wages by PJMP during the relevant
timeframe but did earn commissions and bonuses from PJMP.
(See, Pl.'s SAUF ¶ 12; accord,
Defs.' Resp. ¶ 12.) Patrick R. Polcyn
(“PR”) was Rendel's body shop manager in 2015
and 2016 but at that time “began getting involved in
the towing operation.” (Id. ¶ 11.) From
January 1 through August 21, 2015, PJMP paid PR hourly wages
approximately every fourth pay period on a “straight
time” basis; from August 21, 2015 through the end of
2016, PJMP paid PR overtime hourly wages approximately three
out of four pay periods. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)
During 2015 and 2016, Michael Polcyn (“Michael”)
served as the general manager for each of PJMP, Rendel's,
and H&J Truck Leasing, Inc., all of which operated out of
the 40 Mills Road location. (Id. ¶ 10.) PJMP
paid Michael minimal hourly wages on a “straight
time” basis during approximately the first half of
2015; however, PJMP paid Michael significantly more hourly
compensation on an “overtime” basis approximately
every other pay period from June 6, 2015 through the end of
2016. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) The hourly
compensation PJMP paid PR and Michael related to their work
incident to after-hours towing and recovery jobs.
(Compare, Pl.'s SAUF ¶ 21; with,
Defs.' Resp. ¶ 21.) Rendel's paid all the
Polcyns' weekly salaries throughout 2015 and 2016.
(Pl.'s SAUF ¶¶ 17-19; accord,
Defs.' Resp. ¶¶ 17-19.) To the extent they
performed work for PJMP (or, in Michael's case, for
H&J Trucking), their salaries were proportionally
allocated to the pertinent business in end-of-year accounting
adjustments. (Id. ¶ 22.) However, their W-2
forms did not reflect this adjustment, and it is unclear
whether money was transferred on a routine or consistent
basis between Rendel's and PJMP's bank accounts.
(See, Pl.'s SAUF at Ex. 2; Defs.' Resp.
player in the drama is Tammy Mazor (“Mazor”), who
is currently the office manager of Rendel's and PJMP. She
is in charge of payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts
payable for both companies. (Pl's SAUF ¶ 6;
Defs.' Resp. ¶ 6.) In 2015, she was the “tow
manager, ” performed scheduling and dispatching for
PJMP tow truck drivers, and had supervisory control over PJMP
employees. (Ibid.) Mazor's salary was paid by
Rendel's but, as with the Polcyns', was allocated
between Rendel's and PJMP in proportion to the time she
spent performing work for each. (Id. ¶ 7.)
January 2014, the Polcyns hired Plaintiff William R. Seeman
(“Seeman”) as a tow truck operator.
(See, Defs.' SUF ¶ 20; Pl.'s Resp.
¶ 20.) The Polcyns and Mazor supervised Seeman,
providing him with day-to-day towing assignments.
(Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Each of Seeman's
paychecks was issued by PJMP. (Id. ¶ 24.) All
Seeman's duties involved towing and recovery, with the
exception that about once every other week he was asked to
pick up auto parts from various stores for Rendel's
repair services and parts department. (Pl.'s SAUF ¶
33; Defs.' Resp. ¶ 33.) On these occasions, Seeman
claims that he was often provided with a PJMP check to pay
for the parts; Mazor disputes this, submitting documentary
evidence showing checks that PJMP issued to parts suppliers
and averring that these were strictly for PJMP necessities.
(Compare, Pl.'s SAUF ¶ 34; with,
Defs.' Resp. ¶ 34.) Occasionally, Seeman would have
out-of-pocket expenses, such as fuel costs; while he avers
that reimbursement often took the form of a Rendel's
check, Mazor swears that he was reimbursed with petty cash
allocated to PJMP. (Id. ¶ 35.)
disciplined Seeman on April 28, 2015 and June 16, 2015.
(Defs.' SUF ¶ 27; accord, Pl.'s Resp.
¶ 27.) In 2016, Seeman's employment ended after he
took some time off work for a few days and was then rushed to
the hospital following an incident at work. (See,
ECF No. 37 (“PJMP's Ans.”) ¶¶
16-18.) The parties dispute whether he resigned or was fired.
(Compare, Defs.' SUF ¶ 28; with,
Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 28.) On Rendel's letterhead, the
“Rendel's Management” acknowledged
Seeman's “resignation on January 14th,
2016.” (Pl.'s Resp. at Ex. 9.)
VII prohibits unlawful employment practices, including
discrimination “against a qualified individual on the
basis of disability in regard to job application procedures,
the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee
compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and
privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a).
Some employers, however, are exempt from Title VII liability.
Title VII defines an “employer” as a
“person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who
has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of
twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or proceeding
calendar year.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).
posture of the case does not implicate the merits of
Seeman's ADA claim. There is no dispute that, whereas
Rendel's had approximately 40 employees in 2015, the most
individuals PJMP ever employed during the relevant timeframe
for any two-week period was “five or six.”
(See, e.g., Defs.' SUF ¶ 15;
accord, Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 15; Defs.' Resp.
¶¶ 8-9.) The sole issues sub judice are
therefore, first, whether grounds exist to aggregate
Rendel's employees with PJMP's such that Title VII