Judge Robin Cauthron of the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma denied an attempt by Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Regional University System of Oklahoma to dismiss Dr. Rachel Tudor’s hostile work environment claim.
Tudor was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor of English by the university in 2004 before transitioning. She was denied tenure in 2011 after some university administrators said her gender identity violated their religious beliefs. Despite her academic qualifications and recommendation for tenure, the university’s dean and interim vice president for academic affairs denied the request.
She filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission, which found sufficient evidence for the claim to advance. After mediation between both parties failed, the EEOC sent the case to the Justice Department.
The department filed a lawsuit against the university and regents alleging the university fired Tudor based on her gender, gender identity and gender expression, as well as in retaliation for making complaints of discrimination.
In December 2014, the department announced Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting sex discrimination, includes gender identity and expression.
“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,” Jillian Weiss, Tudor’s attorney, said in a statement.