Wednesday, April 01, 2015

DoJ Comes Down Hard On A University

This past week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against a university for firing a transgender professor. The DoJ said in a press release that,
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University ( Southeastern ) and the Regional University System of Oklahoma ( RUSO ) for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against a transgender employee on the basis of her sex and retaliating against her when she complained about the discrimination. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in December 2014 that the Department of Justice takes the position that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination is best read to extend the statute's protection to claims based on an individual's gender identity, including transgender status.

According to the United States' complaint, filed in federal district court in Oklahoma City today, Rachel Tudor began working for Southeastern as an Assistant Professor in 2004. At the time of her hire, Tudor presented as a man. In 2007, Tudor, consistent with her gender identity, began to present as a woman at work. Throughout her employment, Tudor performed her job well, and in 2009, she 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' complaint alleges that Southeastern discriminated against Tudor when it denied her application because of her gender identity, gender transition and non-conformance with gender stereotypes.

"By standing beside Dr. Tudor, the Department of Justice sends a clear message that we are committed to eliminating discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "We will not allow unfair biases and unjust prejudices to prevent transgender Americans from reaching their full potential as workers and as citizens. And we will continue to work tirelessly, using every legal tool available, to ensure that transgender individuals are guaranteed the rights and protections that all Americans deserve."
I have to ask, is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) really necessary now that the courts, DoJ, and the Equal Employment and Opportunities Commission (EEOC) have found that gender identity is sex discrimination? My answer is yes unless the Supreme Court rules in our favor because all it will take is for the Supreme Court to find that it doesn’t cover us or that the next president decides that it doesn’t and not prosecute cases of discrimination. So yes we need coverage, but I don’t want to see it in a standalone law but I rather see it added to Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

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