United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court
Court has before it Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. 27) and Defendant's Motion to Seal (Dkt.
28). The Motions are fully briefed and the Court finds these
matters appropriate for decision without oral argument. For
the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT both
Ricky Kamdem-Ouaffo, Ph.D. (“Plaintiff”) was
employed by Defendant Idahoan Foods, LLC
(“Defendant” or “Idahoan Foods” or
“the Company”) as a Senior Food Scientist from
December 2012 until his termination on July 11, 2014.
See Compl. ¶¶ 31, 49-51, Dkt. 1-1. Idahoan
Foods is an Idaho-based company that produces and sells
various potato products. In mid-2012, Idahoan Foods brought
the function of developing and blending seasonings and
flavorings for its potato products in-house. This decision
prompted a need for a Senior Food Scientist position within
the Research and Development Department to work at the
Company's Idaho facility. After an interview with the
Company's former CEO, Plaintiff received and accepted an
employment offer as Senior Food Scientist on or around
December 3, 2012. Id. ¶¶ 31-32.
Plaintiff's position entailed development of commercial
products, new technologies, and leadership for the design,
building, and equipping of new product development
laboratories. Id. ¶¶ 39-42.
was terminated from his position with the Company on July 11,
2014. On September 2, 2014, he filed a Charge of
Discrimination with the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),
alleging that his termination was based on race and national
origin discrimination. Id. ¶ 138. Plaintiff is
Cameroonian and black. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.
Plaintiff alleges that he suffered two discriminatory
incidents during his tenure. The first occurred at ¶
2013 Christmas event at Idahoan Foods' Corporate
Headquarters. At that event, Art Polson, a salesman employed
by the Company, “quiz[ed] the Plaintiff about his
nationality of origin” and “asked the Plaintiff
some American citizenship test questions[, ]” including
questions about “the Civil War” and “former
American presidents” in the presence of Idahoan Foods
Executives, including the CEO Drew Facer. Compl. at
¶¶ 36-38. This interaction lasted three to four
minutes. Kamdem Dep. Vol. II at 207:6-7, Dkt. 27-6.
also alleges that, on a subsequent occasion in the R&D
Department during the first quarter of 2014, he spoke with
Polson for several minutes along with another employee,
Adriana Trejo. Kamdem Dep. Vol. II at 222:9-10, 224:1-10.
According to Plaintiff, Polson asked questions about
nationality, a green card, and citizenship. Adrianna Trejo
mentioned that her husband was “in need of some kind of
citizenship paper or [was] in the process of [obtaining]
it.” Id. at 224:1-10. Plaintiff did not like
the conversation and walked away. Id. at 222:9-16,
EEOC issued Plaintiff a “Notice of Right to Sue”
in May 2015, and Plaintiff filed the present suit asserting
claims for employment discrimination, wrongful termination,
breach of contract, and infliction of emotional distress
arising from his termination. Additionally, Plaintiff
contends that Defendant's subsequent refusal to rehire
him for other positions within the Company was unlawful
retaliation in response to his complaints of race
discrimination filed with the IHRC and EEOC. Id.
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the
principal purposes of the summary judgment “is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . .
.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323-24 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural
shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool[ ]
by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be
isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant
unwarranted consumption of public and private
resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a
genuine dispute as to any material fact-a fact
“that may affect the outcome of the case.”
Id. at 248.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility
findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the
non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie
v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On
the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt
unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence.
McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir.
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact.
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir.
2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need
not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or
deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528,
532 (9th Cir. 2000).
shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence
sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor.
Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party
must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ]
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine
dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S.
the Court is “not required to comb through the record
to find some reason to deny a motion for summary
judgment.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch.
Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation
omitted). Instead, the “party opposing summary judgment
must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable
facts.” Southern California Gas Co. v. City of
Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003).
in a brief, unsupported by the record, cannot be used to
create a factual dispute. Barnes v. Independent Auto.
Dealers, 64 F.3d 1389, 1396 n.3 (9th Cir. 1995).
Furthermore, only admissible evidence may be considered in
ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Orr v. Bank of
America, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In determining admissibility
for summary judgment purposes, it is the contents of the
evidence rather than its form that must be considered.
Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036-37 (9th Cir.
2003). If the contents of the evidence could be presented in
an admissible form at trial, those contents may be considered
on summary judgment even if the evidence itself is hearsay.
Id. (affirming consideration of hearsay contents of
plaintiff's diary on summary judgment because at trial,
plaintiff's testimony of contents would not be hearsay).
Circuit has also “repeatedly held that documents which
have not had a proper foundation laid to authenticate them
cannot support a motion for summary judgment.”
Beyene v. Coleman Sec. Services, Inc., 854 F.2d
1179, 1182 (9th Cir. 1988). Authentication, required by
Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a), is not satisfied simply by
attaching a document to an affidavit. Id. The
affidavit must contain testimony of a witness with personal
knowledge of the facts who attests to the identity and due
execution of the document. Id.
Breach of Contract
Idaho law, in the absence of an express agreement between the
employer and the employee limiting either party's right
to terminate the contract, either the employer or the
employee may terminate the employment relationship “at
will” without incurring liability-that is, at any time
for any reason. MacNeil v. Minidoka Memorial Hosp.,
701 P.2d 208 (Idaho 1985), overruled on other grounds by
Metcalf v. Intermountain Gas Co., 788 P.2d 744 (Idaho
Plaintiff was clearly an at-will employee. He entered into a
written contract of employment which expressly stated that
his employment with Idahoan Foods would be at-will and that
all prior agreements and understandings were superseded.
Eaton Decl. Ex. 29, at 40-41, Dkt. 27-4. Additionally,
Plaintiff received and signed an “Employment
Statement” that specified employment with Idahoan Foods
was at-will. Id. at 45. To avoid his at-will status,
Plaintiff asserts only that “Idahoan Foods represented
that the role of Senior Food Scientist was a long term
corporate role and even provided incentives for the Plaintiff
for wanting to stay long term with the company for at least
three years.” See Compl. ¶ 218, Dkt. 1-1.
However, retention incentives and statements regarding long-
term career opportunities do not convert at-will employment
into a contract for employment of a fixed duration. It is
ordinary for an employer to encourage its at-will employees
to stay with the company long term and to provide incentives
for doing so. At no time did Plaintiff's employment
status deviate from the at-will status under his express
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted as to
the breach of contract claim.
Breach of the Covenants of Good Faith Fair Dealing
avoid the effect of his at-will status, Plaintiff argues that
the conduct of Idahoan Foods surrounding his termination
breached the company's obligation of good faith and fair
dealing. The “[c]ovenant of good faith and fair dealing
. . . is implied in all contracts, including those for
employment-at-will.” Cantwell v. City of
Boise, 191 P.3d 205, 213 (Idaho 2008). However, the
covenant does not provide rights beyond those available under
a negotiated contract. Id. at 214. Rather, it
requires parties to perform, in good faith, the obligations
existing under the contract. Id. at 213. Breach of
the covenant occurs where a party “violates,
qualifies[, ] or significantly impairs any benefit or right
of the other party under an employment contract[, ] whether
express or implied.” Id. at 213- 14. Idaho
courts have cautioned against using this covenant to place
limits on the termination of an at-will employee. See
Jenkins v. Boise Cascade Corp., 108 P.3d 380, 390 (2005)
(“[T]he covenant of good faith and fair dealing does
not alter the right to fire an at-will employee; that is, the
covenant does not create good cause as a
requirement.”). Indeed, this Court has previously
dismissed a claim like that presented here to avoid
“mak[ing] an end run around the legal consequences of
[an employee's] at-will status.” See Willnerd.
v. Sybase., No. 1:09-CV-500-BLW, 2011 WL 2710085 at *3
(D. Idaho July, 2011).
Plaintiff fails to identify a contractual duty that Idahoan
Foods failed to perform in good faith. The only alleged
wrongful conduct is Idahoan Foods' termination of
Plaintiff after only a short tenure, without notice or cause.
However, as stated above, Plaintiff's contract was
at-will and thus contained no provisions requiring notice or
cause before termination. Idahoan foods did nothing more than
exercise its contractual right to terminate Plaintiff at
will. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is granted as to the Breach of the Covenant claim.
Idaho law, a discharged employee may assert a common law
action for wrongful termination where his or her discharge
violated public policy. See Edmondson v. Shearer Lumber
Products, 75 P.3d 733, 737 (Idaho 2003). Here,
Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim simply repeats
allegations that Idahoan Foods fired him without notice or
cause; it points to no public policy implicated by his
termination. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to make out a valid
wrongful termination claim and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment is granted as to this claim.
enrichment occurs where a defendant receives a benefit which
would be inequitable to retain without compensating the
plaintiff to the extent that retention is unjust.”
Medical Recovery Services, LLC v. Boneville Billing and
Collections, Inc., 336 P.3d 802, 805 (Idaho 2014).
“A prima facie case for unjust enrichment exists where:
(1) there was a benefit conferred upon the defendant by the
plaintiff; (2) appreciation by the defendant of such benefit;
and (3) acceptance of the benefit under circumstances that
would be inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit
without payment to the plaintiff for the value
alleges that his work to create new products, ideas, and
technologies for Idahoan Foods conferred a benefit on the
company for which he was not compensated, and that
“equity and good conscience demand that Idahoan
Foods” should pay Plaintiff for the value of such
work.” See Compl. ¶ 257, Dkt. 1-1.
Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he performed services
that were not compensated, however. Because he was
compensated with a salary for his services under an
enforceable employment contract, and he does not claim that
such compensation was unreasonable, he fails to state a claim
for unjust enrichment. See U.S. Welding, Inc. v. Battelle
Energy All., LLC, 728 F.Supp.2d 1110, 1116-17 (D. Idaho
2010) (“Because there is an express contract dealing
with the essential subject matter of the relationship between
the parties, a claim for unjust enrichment cannot apply
unless the contract is otherwise unenforceable.”).
Absent more, the Court cannot conclude that it would be
inequitable for Idahoan Foods to retain the ...