Court OKs Transgender Professor’s Claim Against Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Posted by Melanie Nathan, July 13, 2015.
The U.S. Department of Justice brought a complaint against Southeastern Oklahoma State University and another defendant on March 30, 2015. The suit alleged that the University terminated the employment of Dr. Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor, based on her gender, gender identity and gender expression, as well as in retaliation for making complaints of discrimination. Dr. Tudor intervened in the lawsuit by bringing her own complaint on May 5, 2015. She included an additional claim for the hostile work environment to which she was subjected.
Southeastern and the other defendant, the Regional University System of Oklahoma, asked the Court to dismiss the hostile work environment claim. They argued that transgender people are not entitled to protection from sex discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act because transgender people are not a protected class under the law. They also said the workplace environment was not alleged to be sufficiently hostile to present a valid claim.
On Friday, July 10, 2015, Judge Robin Cauthron, of the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma,denied the motion to dismiss, permitting the hostile work environment claim to move forward. Judge Cauthron held that Dr. Tudor is a member of a protected class. The Court also found that the complaint alleged enough facts to show that the work environment was hostile. The Court similarly rejected the Defendants’ arguments that Dr. Tudor had not properly presented her claim to the EEOC, and that she had delayed too long in presenting her claims to the Court.
Jillian Weiss, Dr. Tudor’s attorney, said “Freedom from gender discrimination is everyone’s right, including transgender people, and the Court correctly recognized this. Merit should be the measure, not irrelevant personal matters that someone in the workplace happens to dislike.”