TLDEF Fights for Wrongfully Fired Professor at Fifth Circuit

February 22, 2017 Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its dismissal of TLDEF’s appeal on behalf of an English Professor who was fired from from her teaching position on the basis of her sex. Dr. Rachel Tudor was denied tenure and terminated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma in 2011 after she began living openly as a woman. 


“Losing my job at Southeastern was devastating because I had worked so hard to prove I belonged there and because it forced me to leave my friends and my home,” Tudor said. “I was qualified for promotion and tenure. I earned my job. All I wanted was a fair chance. But I was pushed out because I am a woman. No one should be fired based on their sex. I want an Oklahoma court to hear my case.”


An Oklahoma court was set to hear her case after Federal Judge Robin R. Cauthron ruled in July of 2015 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.


But in August 2016, a few months before Tudor’s Oklahoma case was slated to be sent to an Oklahoma City jury, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide injunction that stopped the federal government and some federal courts from working on transgender sex discrimination cases. The injunction followed  a lawsuit by Texas, Oklahoma and 13 other states and state subdivisions, claiming the government cannot protect transgender workers and students from sex discrimination.  Shortly after, Oklahoma asked O’Connor to halt Dr. Tudor’s Oklahoma case. O’Connor agreed, which has put her Oklahoma case on hold.


With TLDEF’s assistance, Dr. Tudor appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that judicial body to overturn the injunction or allow her Oklahoma case to move forward unencumbered by the injunction. TLDEF’s Director of Impact Litigation Ezra Young was slated to present oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit on February 14, arguing in favor of allowing Dr. Tudor to have her day in Court in Oklahoma. But on February 9, the Fifth Circuit dismissed TLDEF’s appeal. This week TLDEF asked the court to reconsider its decision.


Dr. Tudor deserves to be heard by the Fifth Circuit. We reject attempts to exclude her from this Texas case which has disrupted her Oklahoma sex discrimination case,” Young said. “Once Judge Cauthron ruled on this issue, the State of Oklahoma was prevented from relitigating the same issue in other courts. 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. If Oklahoma wants to win Tudor’s case, they need to win it in front of an Oklahoma City jury, not a federal judge in Wichita Falls, Texas.”


“My ultimate goal is to get my job back at Southeastern so I can continue to make a positive difference in the lives of my students. And I want to rejoin my colleagues who respect my contributions to academia,” Tudor said. “All women should have the same opportunity to work, earn a living and provide for themselves andtheir loved ones. I’m fighting for women to have our place in the workforce and make our institutions better.”

Read Dr. Tudor’s Petition for Rehearing here.


In addition to being represented by by Ezra Young of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Dr. Tudor is also assisted by Marie Eisela Galindo of Law Office of Marie E. Galindo. The case is Texas et al. v. U.S. et al., case number 16-11534, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.