Oklahoma school ordered to reinstate transgender professor

Audacy - The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A university in southeast Oklahoma that was found to have discriminated against a transgender English professor must reinstate the professor with tenure, a federal appeals court ruled.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday ordered professor Rachel Tudor to be reinstated with tenure at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and ordered a lower court to recalculate how much pay and attorney fees she is entitled to.

A federal jury in Oklahoma City previously awarded Tudor more than $1 million after finding the university discriminated against her and wrongfully denied her tenure. But the trial court later reduced that award because of a $300,000 state cap on non-economic damages. Both parties appealed.

Tudor began working at Southeastern in 2004. She began presenting as a woman in 2007 by wearing women’s clothing, styling her hair in a feminine way and going by the name Rachel, according to her lawsuit against the university. After she was denied tenure in 2010, Tudor filed a discrimination complaint. She was fired the following year.

The U.S. Department of Justice also sued the university, leading to a settlement with Southeastern agreeing to hold mandatory anti-discrimination training and to implement policy changes to reduce discrimination.

“As injurious as the sex discrimination and retaliation were to Dr. Tudor, she did not consider it merely personal," Tudor said in a statement after Monday's ruling. “Rather, she was a symbol to those who discriminated against her. They wanted to create an environment where certain views and certain people are punished to create fear and shame instead of self-confidence and opportunity for all."

Tudor said she looks forward to being “the best professor she can be."

In a statement, the president of the university, Thomas Newsom, declined to discuss the court's decision.

“The University will continue to focus its efforts on educating students as the legal system moves forward," he said.

The Oklahoma attorney general's office, which represented the university, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.