SNL Workforce Freedom All. v. Nat'l Tech. & Eng'g Sols. of Sandia

Decision Date29 August 2022
Docket Number1:22-cv-00001-KWR-SCY
PartiesSNL WORKFORCE FREEDOM ALLIANCE, DAVID PETERSON, JON BROOKS, ANNA BURNS, JOHN DOE, and JANE DOE, Plaintiffs, v. NATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS OF SANDIA, LLC, doing business as Sandia National Laboratories, HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEA W RIGGS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon the following motions:

Plaintiffs John Doe's and Jane Doe's Motion to Permit Proceeding with Doe Plaintiffs (Doc 39);
Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for lack of Personal Jurisdiction under Federal Rule 12(b)(2), and in the Alternative, Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6) (Doc 41); and
Defendant National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction under Federal Rule 12(b)(1) and/or Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6), and/or Strike under 12(f) (Doc. 42).

This case concerns certain employees' challenge to their employer's COVID-19 vaccine, testing, and masking requirements. Plaintiffs appear to assert that the vaccine, testing, and mask mandates violate their constitutional right to bodily integrity. Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court dismisses the constitutional claims under Counts I and II and rules as follows:

Plaintiff SNL Workforce Freedom Alliance has not shown it possesses standing, and therefore its claims are dismissed without prejudice;
Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts to show that Defendant NTESS is a government actor, and therefore all constitutional claims under Count I and II are dismissed for failure to state a claim;
• Alternatively, Counts I and II are dismissed because Plaintiffs did not carry their burden to show a plausible violation of their constitutional right to bodily integrity;
The Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant Honeywell International, Inc., and the Court dismisses the claims against Defendant Honeywell without prejudice;
• Alternatively, to the extent the Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant Honeywell, the Court would dismiss the vicarious liability claims against it for failure to state a claim; and
Plaintiffs John Doe and Jane Doe did not show that proceeding anonymously in this case is appropriate.

However, Count III and a portion of Count II remain, subject to further briefing as explained below. Therefore, Defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. 41 and 42) are GRANTED IN PART and Plaintiff John Doe's and Jane Doe's motion to proceed anonymously (Doc. 39) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Defendant National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC (NTESS) is a privately held company wholly owned by Defendant Honeywell International, Inc. Defendant NTESS operates Sandia National Laboratory under a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042, requiring all federal contractors to comply with any guidance published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (the “Task Force”) regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. On September 24, 2021, the Task Force issued guidance requiring all covered employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus (the “Contractor Mandate”). The guidance instructed that contractors must provide accommodations to employees for medical and religious reasons. The Task Force also published masking and testing guidance. As a private federal contractor, NTESS asserts its was required to comply with the Contractor Mandate.

NTESS implemented a vaccine mandate in October 2021. On December 7, 2021, a federal district court entered a nationwide injunction pausing the Executive Order and the vaccine mandate. See Georgia v. Biden, No. 1:21-cv-163, 2021 WL 5779939 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 7, 2021) (“the Court ORDERS that Defendants are ENJOINED, during the pendency of this action or until further order of this Court, from enforcing the vaccine mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors in all covered contracts in any state or territory of the United States of America.”).[1] The Eleventh Circuit declined to stay the injunction. NTESS acknowledges that the injunction applies to them and paused its vaccine requirement on January 5, 2022. However, the record before the Court reflects that NTESS has continued with masking and testing requirements. Doc. 24-1 at 27.

On August 26, 2022, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part the district court, but vacated the injunction's nationwide scope. Therefore, it appears the injunction no longer applies to the parties in this case. Georgia v. President of the United States, No. 21-14269, 2022 WL 3703822, at *2, -- F.4th -- (11th Cir. Aug. 26, 2022).

Plaintiffs argue that the Executive Order is not valid, but they do not sue President Biden. Rather, Plaintiffs sue their employer, and seek injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment stating that the vaccine, testing, and masking requirements violates their constitutional right to bodily integrity. They also seek a declaration that the requirements violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiffs assert the following claims:

Count I: Injunctive Relief (Violation of the Right to Bodily Integrity pursuant to the United States Constitution);
Count II: Declaratory Relief (Violation of the Right to Bodily Integrity pursuant to the United States Constitution);[2] and
Count III: Declaratory Relief regarding violation of Americans with Disabilities Act.

See Doc. 37 (amended complaint). After Defendants filed their first round of motions to dismiss, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. Id. Defendant NTESS subsequently filed another motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Doc. 42. Defendant Honeywell moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or alternatively failure to state a claim. Doc. 41. These motions are now ready for decision.

DISCUSSION
I. Court will apply federal pleading standards.

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (b)(2), and (b)(6). However, Plaintiffs request that the Court apply New Mexico notice pleading standards, which they argue their complaint meets. The Court concludes that federal pleading standards apply.

Plaintiffs have not provided any case law showing that New Mexico pleading standards apply in this case. Plaintiffs did not file this case in New Mexico state court, and the complaint alleges no New Mexico state claims. Rather, they filed this case in the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, before it was transferred to the District of New Mexico.

This case is in federal court and federal pleading standards apply. This is true even in cases removed from state to federal court. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(1) (“These rules apply to a civil action after it is removed from a state court.”); Grasshopper Nat. Med., LLC v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., No. CIV 15-0338 JB/CEG, 2016 WL 4009834, at *30 (D.N.M. July 7, 2016) (Browning, J.) (because case was removed to federal court “the Court must apply Iqbal/Twombly's federal pleading standards - rather than New Mexico state-law pleading standards - to the Complaint.”).

II. Constitutional claims related to vaccine mandate are no longer enjoined and are not moot.

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims relating to the vaccine mandate under Count I and II, asserting there is no case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution because the vaccine mandate has been enjoined.[3] As explained above, a federal district court entered a nationwide injunction related to Executive Order 14042, and the parties agreed that it enjoined the vaccine mandate in this case. Georgia v. Biden, 574 F.Supp.3d 1337, 1344 (S.D. Ga. 2021), aff'd in part, vacated in part sub nom. Georgia v. President of the United States, No. 21-14269, 2022 WL 3703822 (11th Cir. Aug. 26, 2022).

Under Count I, Plaintiffs seek to enjoin the vaccine mandate. Under Count II, Plaintiffs in part seek to declare the vaccine mandate unconstitutional. Plaintiffs do not seek damages and apparently did not file this case using the vehicle of § 1983 or Bivens. See doc. 48 at 5 (plaintiffs assert they are not seeking damages).

After the parties briefed the motion to dismiss, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the injunction in part. However, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the injunction should not have had nationwide scope. Georgia v. President of the United States, No. 21-14269, 2022 WL 3703822, at *2, -- F.4th -- (11th Cir. Aug. 26, 2022). Therefore, it appears the injunction no longer applies to this case, and the Court declines to dismiss Counts I and II as moot.

III. Plaintiff SNL Workforce Freedom Alliance failed to show it has standing.

Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff SNL Workforce Freedom Alliance (SWFA) for lack of standing. Doc. 42 at 24. Defendants argued that Plaintiff SWFA lacked associational standing under Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343 (1977), as it did not allege any facts establishing associational standing in its complaint. Plaintiffs' response to this argument does not address associational standing or cite to the facts in its complaint which establish associational standing. See Doc. 48 at 4-5.

The United States Supreme Court has held that an association has standing to sue on behalf of its members only if the following conditions are met: (1) the association's members would otherwise have standing in...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT