Transgender Woman Asks Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Allow a Path Forward for Her Title VII Discrimination Case Against Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Regional University System of Oklahoma
Transgender Woman Asks Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Allow a Path Forward for Her Title VII Discrimination Case Against Southeastern Oklahoma State University and
Regional University System of Oklahoma
Dr. Rachel Tudor Says State of Oklahoma Not Entitled to Relitigate Her Case in Texas and Federal Judge in Wichita Falls, Texas Did Not Have Power to
Issue Nationwide Injunction
January 4, 2017 - Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund client Dr. Rachel Tudor has asked the New Orleans based United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to overturn a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge in Wichita Falls, Texas, which has disrupted transgender sex discrimination cases throughout the country, including her own.
Dr. Tudor, who holds a doctorate in English from the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s flagship university, worked as a tenure track English professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma from 2004 until she was fired in 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Southeastern and its governing board in March 2015, alleging Tudor was denied tenure and ultimately fired because of her sex. Tudor joined that lawsuit shortly after it was filed. In May 2015, the State of Oklahoma asked a federal court in Oklahoma to toss out Tudor’s sex discrimination claim simply because Tudor is a transgender woman. In July 2015, the Oklahoma court ruled that Title VII, a federal nondiscrimination law prohibiting sex discrimination, protects transgender people from sex discrimination and green-lighted Tudor’s case to move forward.
“Losing my job at Southeastern was utterly devastating—not only because I had worked so hard to prove I belonged there, but also because it forced me to leave my friends and my home,” Tudor said. “The July 2015 ruling would finally allow me my day in court to stand up against the discrimination I endured.”
But in May 2016, Texas, Oklahoma and 13 other states and state subdivisions sued the federal government claiming the government cannot protect transgender workers and students from sex discrimination. Several months later, Oklahoma and others asked Judge O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas to issue a nationwide injunction, aiming to stop the federal government and some federal courts from working on transgender sex discrimination cases.
In August 2016, a few months before Tudor’s Oklahoma case was slated to be sent to an Oklahoma City jury, Judge O’Connor issued a nationwide injunction. Shortly after, Oklahoma asked O’Connor to negate orders entered by the Oklahoma court including the July 2015 order finding Tudor to be protected under federal law. O’Connor obliged.
In her brief filed on January 3rd with the Fifth Circuit, Dr. Tudor advised that she filed papers with Judge O’Connor in early September seeking permission to tell him why her Oklahoma case should not be re-litigated in Texas. Tudor also advised that she and her lawyers travelled hundreds of miles to the small town of Wichita Falls, Texas in late September to tell Judge O’Connor in person why the Oklahoma case must go forward but that Judge O’Connor refused to hear from Tudor.
“The Honorable Judge Cauthron of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled back in July 2015 that I am protected from sex discrimination under federal law,” Tudor said. “Oklahoma is not allowed to move to a Texas court to undo Judge Cauthron’s decision.”
“The State of Oklahoma has already had the opportunity to litigate whether Dr. Tudor is protected under Title VII. Once Judge Cauthron ruled on this issue, the State of Oklahoma was prevented from relitigating the same issue in other courts,” said TLDEF Director of Impact Litigation Ezra Young. “Judge Cauthron’s July 2015 ruling in Oklahoma determined that Dr. Tudor is protected under Title VII, paving the way for her case to proceed.” Young added, “If Oklahoma wants to win Tudor’s case, they need to win it in front of an Oklahoma City jury, not a lone wolf federal judge in Wichita Falls, Texas.”
“The vast majority of federal courts, including the Oklahoma court hearing Dr. Tudor's case, have found that transgender people have the right to be free from sex discrimination under federal law,” said TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss. “Our nation’s laws do not permit Oklahoma to short-circuit the judicial process and strip Tudor of her right to have her case heard by an Oklahoma City jury.”
In her appeal, Dr. Tudor is also requesting an oral argument, advising that this is a “case of national importance.” TLDEF’s Ezra Young filed this brief on behalf of Dr. Tudor with Marie E. Galindo of the Law Office of Marie E. Galindo in Lubbock, Texas.