Transgender professor awarded $1.1M after school denied her tenure and fired her

A jury decided in her favor on Monday.

November 21, 2017, 2:15 PM

— -- A jury has awarded a transgender professor $1.1 million after she accused her employer of discrimination.

Dr. Rachel Tudor, a professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University from 2004 to 2011, accused the school in 2010 of subjecting her to sex discrimination "when it denied her application for promotion and tenure during the 2009-10 academic year," according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015. Tudor later joined the lawsuit.

A jury decided in her favor on Monday, finding a preponderance of evidence that she was “denied tenure because of her gender” and was later retaliated against after complaining about workplace discrimination, according to a verdict form obtained by ABC News.

Tudor first filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which referred her to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the lawsuit states.

In that complaint, Tudor states that she notified the school of her intent to transition from male to female in 2007, according to the lawsuit. However, Tudor then received a call from a Southeastern employee who informed her that "Southeastern’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Douglas McMillan, had inquired whether Dr. Tudor could be fired because her 'transgender lifestyle' offended his religious beliefs," the lawsuit states. The employee told Tudor that McMillan was told he could not fire Tudor because of her gender identity.

Tudor began presenting herself as a woman during the 2007-08 academic year and was informed by Jane McMillan, the director of Southeastern’s Counseling Center and sister of Douglas McMillan, "that she should take safety precautions because some people were openly hostile towards transgender people," according to the lawsuit.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Douglas McMillan, who is retired, refused to discuss Tudor's case and court victory. "I don’t want to comment on this, thank you," he said.

Jane McMillan did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Tudor met with the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Lucretia Scoufos, to begin preparations to apply for tenure in 2009, the lawsuit states. It was during that meeting that Scoufos learned that Tudor was transgender, but Tudor says she nonetheless "intentionally referred to Dr. Tudor by male pronouns such as 'he' and 'him,'" according to the lawsuit.

Multiple attempts by ABC News to get comment from Scoufos, who is also retired according to the university's spokesman, were unsuccessful.

After Tudor submitted her application for tenure, the Promotion & Tenure Review Committee recommended she receive a promotion and tenure. However, Tudor's application was ultimately denied without explanation, the lawsuit states. It was the first time an English professor was denied a promotion and tenure despite a recommendation from the committee. In June 2010, Tudor received a letter from Douglas McMillan stating her application had been denied because "her record in the areas of 'research/scholarship' and 'university service' were deficient," the lawsuit states.

Tudor then filed her complaint with the Department of Education and attempted to reapply for tenure in 2010, but was denied. She supplemented her complaint to the EEOC in 2011, further accusing the university of retaliating against her for complaining about the school's discrimination. That year, Tudor was fired from her position because she had failed to attain tenure.

The case ultimately made its way to the Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against the school in March 2015.

Tudor has not yet commented on the verdict.

In a statement, Southeastern president Sean Burrage said: “Southeastern Oklahoma State University places great trust in the judicial system and respects the verdict rendered today by the jury. It has been our position throughout this process that the legal system would handle this matter, while the University continues to focus its time and energy on educating students. All legal questions should be directed to the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General.”

An attorney for Tudor declined to comment further.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds and M.L. Nestel contributed to this report.

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