ORLANDO — A district court judge has granted a motion for dismissal in favor of several education organizations in a discrimination case after he ruled that several factors in the complaint were unclear.
Wilsonia W. Haygood, a 69-year-old black woman, filed a complaint against Orange County Public Schools, Florida Department of Education Practices Commission and Florida Education Association, alleging that she was forced to retire due to her age and race.
In his order, Judge Roy Dalton Jr. of the U.S. District for the Middle District of Florida cited Ashcroft v. Iqbal, saying a complaint must "contain 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Detailed factual allegations' are not required, but '(a) pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’"
In addition, Dalton said Haygood’s complaint was a “shotgun pleading.” According to the ruling, a shotgun pleading contains several counts, each one argued in a circular fashion referring back to each other. The end result is a legal document in which most of the counts contain irrelevant factual allegations and legal conclusions.
The dismissal stems from the complaint Haygood filed on Dec. 8 acting as her own counsel, alleging the violations the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In her complaint, she alleges that after serving almost nine years as a middle school teacher, the defendants created a ruse to force her into retirement because of her age and race. Haygood claims the defendants made up a claim that she failed to report a child abuse allegation.
Haygood said that claim was made against her less than one month after she had filed a grievance with the school.
On March 14, the defendants filed a motion for dismissal on the ground that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a cause of action.
In his ruling, Dalton sided with the defendants' claim that, among other deficiencies, the "(plaintiff’s) complaint failed to state which defendant is responsible and also failed to state just whom she was employed by at the time of the alleged discrimination."
Dalton gave some final advice to the plaintiff.
“Before submitting an amended pleading, Plaintiff is encouraged to consult the resources of the in-person legal information program, which is provided free of charge and administered," Dalton wrote.
The judge dismissed the case without prejudice, which allows the plaintiff to refile her complaint. Haygood has until May 17 to file an amended complaint.