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Khalik v. United Air Lines - 671 F.3d 1188 (10th Cir. 2012)


Regarding the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the court has recently stated this new standard is a "refined standard." In applying this new, refined standard, the court has held that plausibility refers to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible. Further, the nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Thus, the Twombly/Iqbal standard is a middle ground between heightened fact pleading, which is expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are no more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, which the Supreme Court has stated will not do.


Plaintiff Fedwa Khalik, an Arab-American who was born in Kuwait and practiced Islam, was terminated by defendant United Air Lines ("United") after she allegedly was grabbed by the arm in the office, was subjected to a false investigation, complained about discrimination, and complained about a co-worker's email discussing a possible sexual liaison with an underage girl. Thereafter, she filed a lawsuit against United in federal district court alleging retaliation and discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, and ethnic heritage under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C.S. § 2601 et seq. United filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which was granted. Khalik appealed.


Did Khalik state a viable cause of action against United?




The court of appeals affirmed the district court's judgment. The court determined that Khalik's claims were not plausible under the Twombly/Iqbal standard because several of her allegations were not entitled to the assumption of truth because they were entirely conclusory. Moreover, the court averred that the remaining facts did not sufficiently allege discrimination or retaliation since her claims were based solely on the fact that she was Muslim and Arab-American, that she complained about discrimination, that she complained about the denial of FMLA leave, and that United terminated her.

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