246 F.3d 1078 (7th Cir. 2001), 00-1943, Heinemeier v Chemetco Incorp.

Docket Nº:00-1943
Citation:246 F.3d 1078
Party Name:GERI HEINEMEIER, formerly known as GERI CHAMPION, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CHEMETCO, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:April 18, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 1078

246 F.3d 1078 (7th Cir. 2001)

GERI HEINEMEIER, formerly known as GERI CHAMPION, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CHEMETCO, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 00-1943

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 18, 2001

Argued NOVEMBER 1, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 96 C 534--David R. Herndon, Judge.

Page 1079

Before CUDAHY, COFFEY, and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

On June 20, 1996, Geri Heinemeier filed suit against Chemetco, Inc. and Tri-Me Transportation, Inc., in the Southern District of Illinois claiming sexual harassment, age discrimination, and retaliatory discharge. After the conclusion of discovery, Chemetco and Tri-Me filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion with respect to Chemetco, concluding that the company was not Heinemeier's employer, but denied the motion as to Tri-Me. A bench trial was then conducted (Tri-Me remained as a defendant) and the judge awarded damages in the amount of $411,310.00. This appeal involves the sole question of whether summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Chemetco. We REVERSE and REMAND this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND1

A. The Companies

There are three relevant companies to this case: Chemetco, Tri-Me, and Triangle Metallurgical. All three companies were owned by Bill Wegrzyn and John Suarez during the relevant time frame. Not only were the three companies owned by the same two men, but also the operation of each was closely tied together. For example, Triangle Metallurgical sorts scrap metal and then transports copper scrap to Chemetco. Prior to 1986, the transportation of metal between Triangle Metallurgical and Chemetco was accomplished by the use of third-party contractors. In 1986, however, Wegrzyn and Suarez formed Tri-Me to retrieve and salvage scrap metal in East St. Louis, Illinois, process the metal in Granite City, Illinois, and thereafter transport the copper to Chemetco. At the time Tri- Me was formed, Juan Mena, its vice- president, hired Carl Schenck to operate Tri-Me as its manager of operations. Juan Mena also interviewed and hired the plaintiff who, on March 1, 1988, commenced her employment with either Chemetco, Tri-Me, or both companies.2

B. Tri-Me as Heinemeier's employer

There are several known facts in this case that support the contention that Tri-Me alone employed Heinemeier. Initially, all of Heinemeier's paychecks were printed on checks issued by Tri-Me and signed by Schenck, a Tri-Me officer. Similarly, Heinemeier's W-2 forms for wage and tax statements reflect that her employer for the years 1992 through 1995 was Tri-Me; although she could not produce her W-2 forms for 1988-1991, Heinemeier conceded in her deposition that she believed these documents also stated that Tri-Me was her employer.

In addition to these documents, the location and duties of her job support a conclusion that Heinemeier was employed at Tri-Me.

Page 1080

Her primary employment responsibility was to audit freight bills Tri-Me generated when it transported copper scrap to Chemetco. Although these bills documented a transaction involving both Chemetco and Tri-Me, Heinemeier usually performed this work at a facility owned by Tri-Me in Granite City, Illinois. Furthermore, she reported directly to Schenck and later, other Tri- Me officers when she was transferred to another Tri-Me facility in Hazelwood, Illinois.

The record also contains evidence, in the form of an apartment application, that Heinemeier believed herself to be a Tri-Me employee. When Heinemeier filled out an apartment application on April 11, 1994, she listed her position as "Freight Audit Manager" for Tri-Me and identified Tri-Me Vice President Juan Mena as her employer. Later in the application process, Heinemeier submitted a "Request for Verification of Employment" form that was signed by Mena as "Vice-President for Tri-Me" and contained no mention of Chemetco.

C. Chemetco as Heinemeier's employer

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