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Simpkins v. Dupage Housing Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 19, 2019



          Charles Ronald Norgle United States District Judge.

         Defendants" motion for partial summary judgment [98] is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' motion to for leave to file excess pages for reply brief [107] is granted. Plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgment [86] is denied.


         Plaintiff Anthony Simpkins ("Plaintiff) sued Defendants DuPage Housing Authority ("DHA") and DHA Management, Inc. ("DHA Management") (collectively, "Defendants") for several employment law violations. Plaintiff currently presses four claims against Defendants, alleging violations of: (1) the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., for failure to pay overtime wages; (2) the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1 et seq., for failing to pay overtime wages at the statutorily required rate; (3) the Illinois Employee Classification Act ("IECA"), 820 ILCS 185/1 et seq., for erroneously failing to classify Plaintiff as an employee rather than an independent contractor; and (4) the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act ("IPWA"), 820 ILCS 130 et seq., for failing to compensate Plaintiff at no less than the prevailing hourly wage for the duration of Plaintiff s work for Defendants. Before the Court now are cross-motions for partial summary judgment that deal only with the IECA and IPWA claims.

         Before delving into the substance of the cross-motions, it is helpful to consider the somewhat circuitous path that has led to this point of the litigation. In August 2017, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the FLSA claim and relinquished jurisdiction as to the pendent state law claims. See Dkt. 65. The Court specifically held as a matter of law that Plaintiff could not be considered an employee (and rather was an independent contractor) for purposes of the FLSA. Plaintiff appealed, and the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. See Simpkins v. DuPage Housing Authority, 893 F.3d 962, 967 (7th Cir. 2017). The Seventh Circuit held that genuine disputes of fact exist that are material to the determination of Simpkins's employment status (for purposes of the FLSA). The Seventh Circuit outlined various factual disputes in the record, including in relation to Plaintiffs alleged schedule, his investment in necessary tools, and the nature and length of the contractual relationship between the parties. Thus, and needless to say, this case will proceed on the FLSA claim regardless of the outcome of this motion. The Seventh Circuit also reinstated the state law claims without any discussion as to the merits of those claims.

         The parties now move forward on cross-motions for partial summary judgment related to those state law claims. Plaintiff argues that, as a matter of law, the Court should hold that Simpkins is an employee for purposes of the IECA. Plaintiff specifically argues that the IECA has a more expansive definition of "employee" than the FLSA, meaning this Court can make that determination yet remain consistent with the Seventh Circuit's findings related to the various material factual disputes that directly appertain to Plaintiffs status as an "employee" under the FLSA. Defendants, on the other hand, argue that they are shielded from liability under the IECA because of its status as a political subdivision of the State of Illinois and that the IPWA does not create a private right of action for individuals in Plaintiffs shoes.

         The Court agrees with Defendants as to the IECA claim, meaning Plaintiffs argument as to his status as an employee for purposes of the IECA is denied. The Court disagrees with respect to the IPWA claim, and if Plaintiff is in fact an independent contractor, Plaintiff is entitled to attempt to prove an IPWA violation as an alternative to his FLSA claim. As such, Plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgment is denied, and Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part for the following reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts in this case have been well-laid out by two orders of this Court and in one published Seventh Circuit opinion. See Dkts. 63, 66, 83. As such, and because the resolution of the issues relevant to the present motion are nearly-purely legal, as opposed to factual, in nature, this opinion provides only a high-level recitation of the general facts of the case, drawn heavily from the Seventh Circuit opinion.

         Plaintiff began working as a handyman for DHA in November 2009 under an agreement titled "Independent Contractor Agreement" and performed general labor as needed to complete the rehabilitation of vacant properties. He performed carpentry, maintenance, and handyman works such as demolition, remodeling, removing fixtures, and discarding trash in that role.

         In 2011, the rehab work slowed down and Simpkins began working primarily at Ogden Manor, a townhome community for which DHA served as the on-site management. He performed much of the same work, but eventually focused specifically on maintenance work. Ogden Manor's property manager and maintenance supervisor, who were DHA employees, gave Simpkins his list of job duties and prioritized the order in which he needed to complete those tasks.

         In May 2012, Simpkins and DHA entered into another "Independent Contractor Agreement." This agreement described the scope of work as "general labor for maintenance" at Ogden Manor. The agreement originally stated that the expected completion date for that work was July 2012. However, that date was later crossed out by hand and replaced with "To Be Determined." Simpkins continued to work at Ogden Manor until May 2015.

         From November 2009 through May 2015, Simpkins worked full-time and exclusively for DHA. Pursuant to DHA's instructions, Simpkins reported his hours by submitting invoices, and he was paid bi-weekly via paper check. DHA issued Simpkins 1099-MISC tax forms to file his taxes, while others whom DHA considered employees were issued W-2 forms. Simpkins was aware that DHA considered him an independent contractor, and he repeatedly requested, to no avail, that his supervisors convert him to a regular employee. DHA did not provide him with pension, insurance, or other similar fringe benefits.

         In May 2015, Simpkins was injured in a car accident, after which his relationship with DHA ended. He filed this lawsuit in October 2015, claiming that DHA had repeatedly failed to pay him overtime, and that DHA was required to provide him with certain disability benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. As noted, this Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants on the FLSA claim, which the Seventh Circuit reversed. The ...

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