U.S. Justice Department files discrimination lawsuit against Oklahoma college

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OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma college is at the center of a lawsuit after officials claimed it violated the Civil Rights Act.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Regional University System of Oklahoma for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit alleges the college discriminated against a transgender employee and retaliated against her when she complained about discrimination.

In 2004, Rachel Tudor began working at the college as an assistant professor. At the time she was hired, Tudor presented herself as a man.

Three years later, she began to present herself as a woman. The lawsuit claims Tudor performed her job well and applied for a promotion to the tenured position of associate professor.

“Southeastern’s administration denied her application, overruling the recommendations of her department chair and other tenured faculty from her department. The United States’ compliant alleges that Southeastern discriminated against Tudor when it denied her application because of her gender identity, gender transition and non-conformance with gender stereotypes,” a statement read.

In 2010, Tudor filed complaints about the denial of her application. After learning about her complaints, the U.S. Justice Department says Southeastern refused to let her reapply for a promotion, despite its own policies.

At the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, Southeastern and RUSO terminated Tudor’s employment because she had not obtained tenure.

“The American workplace must be a level playing field free from discrimination – a place where employees compete based on their merit,” said Director Holly Waldron Cole of the EEOC’s Oklahoma City Area Office.  “Here, the decisions about Dr. Tudor’s employment should have been based on her qualifications, not on impermissible bias and stereotype.”

Title VII prohibits the discrimination of a person based on gender identity or because an employee has completed a gender transition. Title VII also prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because her behavior or appearance does not conform to traditional gender stereotypes. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who lodge complaints about discriminatory treatment.

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