A US federal court jury awarded Professor Rachel Tudor a $1,165,000 verdict on Monday (20 November).
Tudor, a transgender woman and former professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, first brought discrimination allegations against the school in 2010.
The case officially began in 2011 and progressed through the complex court system until yesterday’s decision.
In the jury’s verdict form, they found Tudor successfully proved she was denied tenure due to her gender. They further found she was denied applying for tenure two more times because of her gender. The one claim they did not find she proved was a hostile work environment.
A winding path to justice
Tudor brought her case to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency. They handle federal civil rights claims in the workplace.
She alleged the university denied her tenure, policed her clothing, and restricted her bathroom access.
The EEOC determined she had a case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects people from sex discrimination.
In 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder under Barack Obama’s administration determined Title VII extends to gender identity. Following that decision, the Justice Department sued the university in March 2015 and Tudor joined.
However, following Trump’s election, the Justice Department settled with the university in August 2017. Two months later, current AG Jeff Sessions reversed Holder’s decision. He said Title VII does not, in fact, cover gender identity.
Despite the setbacks, Tudor went forward with attorney Ezra Young and claimed success in yesterday’s ruling.
‘This verdict sends a clear message’
‘We are thrilled that Dr. Tudor has finally achieved a measure of justice, after a years-long court battle against discrimination,’ said Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Executive Director Jillian Weiss in a statement.
Weiss initially represented Tudor before joining TLDEF.
She continued: ‘This verdict sends a clear message. No one should ever be fired on the basis of sex.
‘It’s a huge win not only for Dr. Tudor, but also for all trans employees who deserve the same opportunity to work hard, earn a living and contribute to society.’