Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Oklahoma Jury Awards Transgender Professor $1.1 Million in Tenure-Denial Discrimination Suit

In 2015 we blogged about a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of a transgender professor, Rachel Tudor, who was denied tenure by her institution Southeastern Oklahoma State University.  At the time, we found it noteworthy that DOJ was taking the position that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination necessarily includes discrimination that targets someone for their transgender status, and we noted that a favorable outcome in this case would benefit transgender litigants under Title IX as well. 

2015 seems like a bygone era when it comes to the government's enforcement of civil rights, so it is particularly heartening to report that yesterday a jury of eight Oklahomans found in Tudor's favor and awarded her $1.165 million in damages. They reportedly found that the University was liable on three counts: denying Tudor the opportunity to apply for tenure in 2009-10 because of her gender, denying her again the following year because of her gender, and retaliating against her after she complained about workplace discrimination.

This really is a big deal.  A member of Tudor's legal team noted that this is the first transgender discrimination case under Title VII to make it to a jury trial. For her to win -- bigly -- in court that drew its jurors from a state not exactly known for being progressive on LGBT rights, shows that the law and culture are both shifting in favor of a necessary and expansive view of civil rights.