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Justice Dept. sues Oklahoma university, alleges discrimination against transgender professor

Justice Dept. sues Oklahoma university, alleges discrimination against transgender professor
Morrison Hall at Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Morrison Hall at Southeastern Oklahoma State University

OKLAHOMA CITY — TA professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant was denied a promotion because she was transgender and then fired after she complained about the discrimination, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English at the university, didn’t receive a promotion despite a recommendation from her department chair and other tenured faculty from her department, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Oklahoma City.

“We will not allow unfair biases and unjust prejudices to prevent transgender Americans from reaching their full potential as workers and as citizens,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Tudor began working at Southeastern in 2004 but started presenting herself as a woman in 2007 by wearing women’s clothing, styling her hair in a feminine way and going by the name Rachel, the lawsuit alleges.

After she was denied tenure in 2010, Tudor filed a discrimination complaint. She was fired the following year.

Tudor filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigated and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

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Southeastern President Sean Burrage said in a statement that university officials are aware of the lawsuit and are committed to diversity and equal employment opportunities.

“The university is confident in its legal position and its adherence to all applicable employment laws,” Burrage said. “We will allow the legal system to run its course, while we direct our focus and energy on our top priority, that of educating our students.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office will represent the university.

Founded in 1909, Southeastern currently has about 5,230 students. It is governed by the Regional University System of Oklahoma, which also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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