Federal judge doesn’t go for corporate shuffling in parking attendant labor suit

By Dan Churney | Jul 24, 2015

A Chicago parking lot attendant company tried to pull away from a class-action labor lawsuit brought by former employees, but a federal judge has applied the brakes.

A Chicago parking lot attendant company tried to pull away from a class-action labor lawsuit brought by former employees, but a federal judge has applied the brakes. 

In June 2014, Alfredo Sanchez and Miguel Arriaga lodged a suit against Global Parking Management, Inc. and its owners – Michael S. DeNigris, Joseph Grillo and Roseanne Parone-DeNigris. Plaintiffs alleged defendants violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Global Parking provided clients with attendants to monitor parking lots and take action against drivers who park in lots, but do not patronize businesses associated with the lots. At the time the suit was filed, plaintiffs were Global attendants.

Specifically, plaintiffs accused defendants of “regularly and customarily” making them work beyond 40 hours per week, but at straight time plus $1, rather than time-and-a-half as required by federal law. Plaintiffs also alleged defendants illegally fined employees if they did not show up 15 minutes early for their shifts, failed to tuck in their shirts, forgot equipment or failed to call Global’s office when arriving at a job location.

Shortly after plaintiffs sued, Global fired them, prompting plaintiffs to add an allegation to their complaint that their firings were in retaliation for filing the suit.

In November, both sides discussed a settlement, but could not reach an agreement. The following month, a new company – Car Parking Solutions, LLC – was registered with the Illinois Secretary of State and took over Global’s business. Casimir A. Rincon, who had been an officer manager and attendant for Global, was the registered agent and a managing member of Car Parking. On Jan. 21, defendants added Car Parking and Rincon as defendants.

Car Parking then filed a motion to have itself dropped from the suit, maintaining it cannot be liable for the plaintiffs’ claims because it is not an “alter ego” or successor to Global, or identical with Global. Car Parking complained the plaintiffs are trying to “impose liability on an innocent and separate company.”

In filing the motion, Car Parking submitted an affidavit by Rincon that disputed plaintiffs’ position that Car Parking should be a defendant. However, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood pulled the affidavit to the curb in a ruling July 20 in Chicago, saying the affidavit is “untested,” as plaintiffs have not had the opportunity to depose Rincon and challenge the document.

Wood went on to note plaintiffs alleged facts sufficient to support its contention Car Parking is liable. As examples, Wood drew attention to plaintiffs’ claim Rincon, who was a manager with Global, is also a manager with Car Parking, and employees who worked for Global now work in identical jobs with Car Parking. Wood further pointed out both companies do the same work and Car Parking “effectively” assumed Global’s business.

Wood noted plaintiffs obviously plan to suggest Global formed Car Parking after the failed settlement negotiations in an effort to shield their assets should Global be held liable.

Wood denied Car Parking’s motion to be cut from the case. A status hearing is set for Sept. 29.

Plaintiffs are represented by Workers’ Law Office and Allison, Slutsky & Kennedy, both firms of Chicago. Defendants are represented by Miller Law Group, of Hinsdale.

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