Employment discrimination based on a person's gender has long been prohibited under federal and Oklahoma law. But in recent years there has been a focus on transgender employees and their rights under existing anti-discrimination laws. In a 2007 case the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has federal appellate jurisdiction over Oklahoma, ruled that "discrimination against a transsexual based on the person's status as a transsexual is not discrimination because of sex under" federal law. However, such employees may still pursue sex discrimination based on the fact they are male or female.
Judge Rules Fired College Professor Can Proceed With Discrimination Lawsuit
Consider this ongoing federal employment discrimination case from Oklahoma City. The plaintiff, in this case, is transgender, i.e. she transitioned from male to female. During her transition, she was employed as a non-tenured professor at a university. According to her lawsuit, she was denied tenure and ultimately fired because of her gender transition. Specifically, she said that "every day over the course of a four-year period she had restrictions on which restrooms she could use, restrictions on how she could dress, what makeup she could wear." Additionally, she was repeatedly identified by administrators using an "improper pronoun," i.e., calling her "he" instead of "she."
The judge presiding over the case has denied multiple efforts by the defendant university to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. In 2015, the judge said the Tenth Circuit's 2007 ruling did not bar the plaintiff's complaint here, because she was not alleging discrimination based on the fact she was a transsexual, but rather because she was a female improperly treated as a male by the defendant. Put another way, the judge said the alleged discrimination was based upon the defendant's "dislike" of the plaintiff's "presented gender."
In a more recent ruling, the judge rebuffed the defense's effort to dismiss the plaintiff's "hostile environment" claim based on her purported failure to follow internal university grievance procedures. In most employment discrimination cases, the victim must attempt to address any illegal activity through such internal processes before going to court. But that assumes the employer has such internal processes in place. The problem here, the judge explained, was the university "did not have any policy addressing transgender discrimination or the type of hostility that [the plaintiff] endured as a result of her status as a transgender person."
How Can an Oklahoma Employment Discrimination Lawyer Help You?
Transgender discrimination remains a relatively new and still-developing area of employment law. If you have been subject to any hostile or retaliatory action at work based on your gender, it is important to speak with a qualified Tulsa work discrimination lawyer who can review your case and advise you of your legal options. Call Frasier, Frasier & Hickman, LLP, at 918-779-3658 or contact us online today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.