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Oklahoma jury awards fired transgender professor over $1 million

Posted On: Nov. 22, 2017 10:59 AM CST

Oklahoma jury awards fired transgender professor over $1 million

An Oklahoma City jury on Monday awarded $1,165,000 in damages to a transgender English professor who filed a discrimination lawsuit after she failed to achieve tenure and lost her job.

An employment lawyer said the jury verdict in the case involving Rachel Tudor may be the first of its kind and may encourage other lawsuits.

Ms. Tudor is a former English professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant who began to present as a woman at work during the 2007-08 academic year, according to court papers in Dr. Rachel Taylor v. Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Regional University System of Oklahoma.

Southeastern terminated her employment in May 2011 because she failed to attain tenure before the end of her seventh year as assistant professor. Ms. Tudor filed suit, charging discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

In an Oct. 26 ruling, the U.S. District Court had denied the university’s motion for summary judgment in the case. 

That ruling followed a memo by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stating Tile VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination does not encompass transgender individuals.

Scott Rabe, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P. in New York, said the verdict by a jury in a conservative state such as Oklahoma should send a message to both employers and potential plaintiffs “that there is a path to a discrimination claim on the basis of gender identity.”