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Ochieno v. Sandia National Laboratories

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 22, 2019

MIKE S. OCHIENO, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, filed March 7, 2018. (Doc. 4). Pro se Plaintiff did not file a response, but Defendant filed a reply on April 4, 2018.[1] (Doc. 10). Having reviewed both the Motion to Dismiss and the reply, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss.

         A. Background

         Plaintiff brings this employment discrimination lawsuit against his employer, Defendant. When Plaintiff worked for Defendant, he worked on Kirtland Air Force Base, a federal enclave. (Doc. 1-3) and (Doc. 1-4).

         On March 1, 2017, Plaintiff, through counsel, filed in state court a “Notice of Appeal and Complaint for Discrimination, Breach of Implied Contract, Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations and Wrongful Termination” (Complaint). (Doc. 1-1) at 4-7. In Count I of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges a breach of an implied employment contract based on Defendant's personnel manual. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges race discrimination under the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA). And, finally, in Count III, Plaintiff alleges intentional interference with contractual relations (IICR).

         On February 28, 2018, Defendant removed the lawsuit to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction arising from the fact that Kirtland Air Force Base is a federal enclave subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction. (Doc. 1) at 2.

         On March 7, 2018, Defendant filed this Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 4). Defendant argues, first, that the federal enclave doctrine bars Counts I, II, and III. Second, Defendant argues that the IICR claim raised in Count III also fails to state a claim under New Mexico law.

         B. Standard of Review

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 118 (1990); Swanson v. Bixler, 750 F.2d 810, 813 (10th Cir.1984). Rule 12(b)(6) requires that a complaint set forth the grounds of a plaintiff's entitlement to relief through more than labels, conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim of relief. Id. at 570. A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         C. Discussion

         1. Counts I, II, and III: Federal Enclave Doctrine

         Under the federal enclave doctrine, “state law that is adopted after the creation of the enclave generally does not apply on the enclave.” Allison v. Boeing Laser Tech. Servs., 689 F.3d 1234, 1235 (10th Cir. 2012). Only state law existing at the time of the creation of the federal enclave “remains enforceable.” Id. at 1237 (citation omitted). In this case, Kirtland Air Force Base, where Plaintiff worked for Defendant, was established in 1954 as a federal enclave. Id. at 1236.

         With respect to Count I, “New Mexico did not recognize an implied contract for employment arising from an employment manual until 1980.” Allison, 689 F.3d at 1243. Because this type of breach of implied contract claim did not exist prior to the creation of Kirtland Air Force as a federal enclave in 1954, the breach of implied contract claim in this case is not enforceable under the federal enclave doctrine. As such, Count I does not state a plausible breach of an implied contract claim.

         As to Count II, the New Mexico legislature did not enact the NMHRA until 1969. See NMSA 1978, §§ 28-1-1 to 28-1-14 (2012 Repl. Pamp.); Human Rights Comm'n of New Mexico v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of New Mexico Coll. of Nursing, 1981-NMSC-026, ¶ 9, 95 N.M. 576 (referring to 1969 New Mexico Human Rights Act). As with breach of implied ...


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