May 16, 2019
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No.
l:17-CV-5343 - Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Bauer, Hamilton, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
HAMILTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal is about business names and when an employee's
error in naming his employer is or is not fatal to an
employment discrimination claim. Plaintiff Humberto Trujillo
worked as a manager of an Ashley Furniture HomeStore near
Chicago. He was fired and then filed a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission alleging age discrimination
and retaliation. In the charge, he listed the name of the
Illinois store where he had worked- Ashley Furniture
HomeStore-as well as the address and telephone number of the
store. The correct legal name of Trujillo's employer,
however, was Rockledge Furniture LLC, a business that
operates several Ashley Furniture HomeStores and that was
registered to do business in Illinois under the name
"Ashley Furniture HomeStore - Rockledge." The
district court dismissed Trujillo's claims for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies because he did not name his
employer sufficiently and because the EEOC never managed to
notify the correct employer of Trujillo's charge.
reverse based on two premises. First, Trujillo named his
employer sufficiently in his original EEOC charge, and when
his lawyer later sent his pay stub with Rockledge's name
and address, he removed any doubt about the employer's
identity. Second, the EEOC's error in processing his
charge does not bar Trujillo from suing his employer.
Factual and Procedural Background
review de novo, without deference to the district
court, the grant of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Huri v. Office of the Chief
Judge, 804 F.3d 826, 829 (7th Cir. 2015). We accept all
well-pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences
in plaintiff's favor. Flannery v. Recording Indus.
Ass'n of America, 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004).
June 2007 through March 2016, Trujillo worked as a store
manager of several Ashley Furniture HomeStores in the Chicago
area. These stores were owned and operated by Rockledge
Furniture LLC. Rockledge is a Wisconsin limited liability
company associated with Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., a
Wisconsin corporation. According to Rock-ledge's
registration with the Illinois Secretary of State, it
operates in Illinois under the assumed names of "Ashley
Furniture HomeStore - Rockledge," "Ashley Furniture
Outlet," and "Ashley Sleep." Each store where
Trujillo worked held itself out to the public as an
"Ashley Furniture HomeStore."
summarize briefly the substance of the case, but without
vouching for Trujillo's allegations. In late 2015,
according to Trujillo, Rockledge launched an initiative
focused on hiring and promoting younger employees. Rockledge
assigned a younger sales manager to report to Trujillo.
Trujillo alleged that the young manager failed to perform her
basic duties and repeatedly missed work without an excuse. He
complained to human resources. Instead of disciplining the
young manager, however, Rockledge promoted her. Rockledge
then conducted an unscheduled "store audit," which
Trujillo alleges was used as a pretext to justify his firing.
Trujillo alleges that he was actually fired because of his
age (he was about 50 years old when he was fired) and in
retaliation for his complaints about the young sales manager.
13, 2016, Trujillo filed a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC and the Illinois Human Rights Commission. The charge
identified his employer as "Ashley Furniture
HomeStore." He did not list "Rockledge Furniture
LLC," but he provided the Illinois address and telephone
number of the Rockledge-operated store he had been managing.
The EEOC never contacted anyone at that address or phone
number. Instead, the EEOC used a new, automated system that
forwarded the charge to a Texas business named Hill Country
Holdings, LLC, which operated Ashley Furniture stores in
Texas. Hill Country replied to the EEOC that Trujillo was not
April 2017, the EEOC told Trujillo's then-lawyer that
"Ashley Furniture" (meaning Hill Country) had
responded that it had stores only in Texas and had never
employed Trujillo. In response, Trujillo's lawyer
explained that his employer was Rockledge, an "Ashley
Furniture Franchise/' and that Trujillo's EEOC charge
listed the location where he had worked. The lawyer also sent
the EEOC one of Trujillo's pay stubs, which listed
Rockledge's full name and corporate address. One mystery
of this case is that the EEOC still failed to serve the
charge on Rockledge. The EEOC closed its file in April 2017
and issued Trujillo a right-to-sue letter.
2017, Trujillo filed his complaint in the district court
asserting claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Illinois Human
Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. Rockledge moved to
dismiss. Instead of opposing the motion to dismiss, Trujillo
filed an amended complaint adding as plaintiffs three other
older Rockledge managers. Rockledge moved to dismiss again,
arguing that Trujillo had failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies. The district court granted the
motion to dismiss without prejudice, finding that Trujillo
had failed to exhaust because he did not name Rockledge as a
party in his EEOC charge. The court gave Trujillo an
opportunity to replead and allege facts sufficient to show
that Rockledge knew or should have known of the EEOC charge,
thereby satisfying the "Eggleston
exception" to the administrative exhaustion requirement.
See Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local
Union No. 130, 657 F.2d 890, 905-06 (7th Cir. 1981)
(allowing discrimination suit against party who was not named
at all in EEOC charge, but who received actual notice of
charge and was given opportunity to participate in
filed his second amended complaint, and Rock-ledge again
moved to dismiss based on the same exhaustion argument. The
district court dismissed Trujillo's claim for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies because his EEOC charge did
not list "Rockledge Furniture LLC" and because the
complaint did ...