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10th Circuit: Discrimination Lawsuit Must Contain More Than Conclusory Allegations

United_Airlines 2In Colorado employment lawyer news, Khalik v. United Air Lines (10th Cir. Feb. 6, 2012) involved a Colorado Arab-American who made numerous claims of discrimination and retaliation because of race, religion, national origin, and ethnic heritage against United Air Lines.  The court found that Khalik’s claims were “conclusory” recitations that were insufficient to meet federal pleading requirements.

The court stated that under Twombly/Iqbal while a plaintiff is not required to establish a prima facie case in a complaint, the elements of an alleged cause of action help to determine whether a plausible claim has been set forth.  Where allegations are entirely conclusory, they are not entitled to the assumption of truth.  A plaintiff does not need specific facts, however, cannot make mere conclusions in a complaint.

“In this case, several of Plaintiff’s allegations are not entitled to the assumption of truth because they are entirely conclusory, including her allegations that: (1) she was targeted because of her race, religion, national origin and ethnic heritage; (2) she was subjected to a false investigation and false criticism; and (3) Defendant’s stated reasons for the termination and other adverse employment actions were exaggerated and false, giving rise to a presumption of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination.”

“But a plaintiff must include some further detail for a claim to be plausible. Plaintiff’s claims are based solely on the fact that she is Muslim and Arab–American, that she complained about discrimination, that she complained about the denial of FMLA leave, and that Defendant terminated her. Without more, her claims are not plausible under the Twombly/Iqbal standard.”

Khalik is important because it demonstrates that courts are not abruptly dismissing claims under Twombly/Iqbal, but rather are looking for some details regarding allegations that could be plead to satisfy the plausibility requirement – like when, where, why, by whom, etc.  This case makes clear that without such information claims will not survive.

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