From the desk of Kyle Riley: What is the “federal enclave doctrine” and how does it apply to the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and other tort claims involving a manager who disparaged an employee for his sexual orientation?
Claims Pointer: The federal enclave doctrine applies in Washington where the state voluntarily cedes control and governance of the land to the federal government. State law claims arising within a federal enclave are barred unless they existed at the time of the cession. Read on to find out how the federal enclave doctrine applied to a discrimination claim at a Popeye’s Chicken franchise located on a United States military base.
Peoples v. Puget Sound’s Best Chicken!, Inc., Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2, 2015 WL 437570.
In 1919, Pierce County ceded the land which now encompasses the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to the federal government, granting exclusive jurisdiction to the federal government. Fast forward nearly a century to the modern base, complete with a Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits (Popeye’s). Leon Peoples was working at Popeye’s as an employee, where he claims he was subjected to disparaging comments from his manager about his sexual orientation. Peoples sued Popeye’s in Pierce County Circuit Court under various theories, including violation of Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), outrage, and negligent hiring or retention. Popeye’s filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss People’s claims under the federal enclave doctrine and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court ruled that the federal enclave doctrine barred Peoples’ state law claims and because he failed to exhaust federal administrative remedies, granted the motion to dismiss. People’s appealed.
The Washington Court of Appeals held that the federal enclave doctrine barred the WLAD and outrage claims, but not the negligent hiring claim. The federal enclave doctrine applies to all state statutory and common law claims. The court first examined Peoples’ WLAD claims. Because the Washington legislature did not enact WLAD until 1949, those claims were barred by the federal enclave doctrine. In response, Peoples argued that he should be allowed to bring the same claims on remand under the tort of wrongful discharge. The court pointed out that the tort of wrongful termination did not exist until 1984.
The court then turned to the torts of outrage. As to outrage, there was a statutory basis for establishing a claim, but not until 1921; nevertheless, the common law claim of outrage did not exist until 1975, so the court held that those claims were barred by the federal enclave doctrine.
Finally, the court considered the negligent hiring or retention claim. Peoples cited a case from 1913 that involved negligent hiring or retention, but did not explicitly state the tort in those terms. Popeye’s presented a 1951 case that first used the term “negligent hiring or retention.” The court reviewed the cases and determined that the tort of negligent hiring or retention existed in 1913, and therefore was not barred by the federal enclave doctrine. The court reversed the trial court’s ruling as to People’s last claim and remanded to the trial court.
Case updates are intended to inform our clients and others about legal matters of current interest. They are not intended as legal advice. Readers should not act upon the information contained in this article without seeking professional counsel.