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Transgender professor reinstated at Oklahoma university by federal court

A transgender professor who was denied promotion more than a decade ago must be reinstated at Southeastern Oklahoma State University because the school discriminated against her, a federal court said this week.

Rachel Tudor, who was dismissed from college in 2011, won a landmark civil rights discrimination case in 2017, in which a jury awarded her more than $ 1 million in damages.

Although she was established in the 2009-10 academic year by a faculty committee of five in a 4-1 vote, the university administration refused her promotion to associate professor. , according to a three-judge federal decision filed with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In light of the jury’s verdict in favor of Dr Tudor, it is established – and we can no longer question – that Dr Tudor would have been established in 2009-10 in the absence of discrimination,” the ruling said. “Instead, we are restoring Dr. Tudor to the position she would have been in if Southeastern had not engaged in prohibited discrimination against her.”

The judges also said in the 55-page decision that a previous court miscalculated some of Tudor’s lost income and that the university, which is located in Durant, must subsidize its attorneys’ fees, according to the files of the court.

Tudor is a transgender woman and dual citizenship from the United States and the Chickasaw Nation, according to the court record. She began working at Southeastern Oklahoma State University as an assistant professor in the English department in 2004. She began her transition in 2007, according to the file.

“Dr. Tudor looks forward to being the first full Native American professor in his department in the more than 100 year history of the Native American service institution Southeastern Oklahoma State University,” said his lawyer, Jillian T. Weiss, in a statement. declaration.

“As damaging as the gender discrimination and retaliation was to Dr Tudor, she did not consider it simply personal. On the contrary, she was a symbol for those who had discriminated against her,” the statement read. “They wanted to create an environment where certain opinions and certain people are punished for creating fear and shame instead of self-confidence and opportunity for all. They wanted people like Dr. Tudor to be afraid and go away. Instead of walking away, instead of accepting a settlement – conditioned as never having taught in Oklahoma, she fought for the rights and dignity of her Indigenous and LGBT communities.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University has said that due to an ongoing litigation, it will not publicly discuss the details of the situation. “The university will continue to focus its efforts on educating students as the legal system advances,” the school said in a statement.

In 2017, a jury found Tudor had been discriminated against by her former employer and awarded her $ 1.1 million in damages. That was reduced to about $ 360,000 in capped damages, according to the lawsuit.

That year, an eight-person jury voted in favor of Tudor on three points: that she was “refused tenure in 2009-10 because of her gender”, that she was refused “The possibility of applying for tenure in the 2010-11 cycle … because of her gender” and that the university retaliated against her after she complained of discrimination at work.

Tudor’s problems with the university began shortly after he began his transition, court records show. She received a phone call from an anonymous human resources staff member who told her that a university administrator had inquired about the possibility of firing her because her identity as a transgender woman undermined her religious beliefs .

The lawsuit also says Tudor was warned by a counseling center employee to take safety precautions because some people were openly hostile to transgender people.

The Justice Department in 2015 sued the university, with former Attorney General Eric Holder saying federal bans on sex discrimination included protections based on gender identity. That lawsuit was settled by the university and the Justice Department after the school agreed to some policy changes aimed at reducing discrimination, court records show.