To start a federal discrimination or retaliation lawsuit, a plaintiff must file a complaint with the court. The complaint is a document which states the facts which the plaintiff alleges add up to causing the defendant to be liable to the plaintiff. In Federal courts, the complaint must set forth enough facts to make the plaintiff’s claims plausible, otherwise, the case risks being dismissed by the court. On June 15, 2017, New York’s Federal appellate court decided a case which discusses this “plausibility” standard.
The Plausibility Standard
For years, Federal courts applied a liberal “notice pleading” requirement to determine whether complaints should be dismissed or not. Courts looked to determine whether there were enough facts to give notice to the defendants about the basis for the plaintiff’s case. Then, in 2009, the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, applied a stricter standard and held that complaints must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true” to state a plausible claim for relief. If not, the complaint will likely be dismissed. The Supreme Court did not provide much guidance about what that standard means and so courts have struggled to apply the standard to the cases coming before them.