NLLG Attorney Helps Win Landmark Appellate Decision on Employment Rights

NLLG’s Brittany M. Novotny played a critical role in the recent historic decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on protecting the rights of transgender employees against discrimination in the workplace.

After a trial in 2017, a federal court jury in Oklahoma City found that Southeastern Oklahoma State University had discriminated against Dr. Rachel Tudor on the basis of her transgender status when they denied her tenure, which resulted in the loss of her job at the University. Although the jury had found in Dr. Tudor’s favor and had awarded money damages, the trial judge declined her request to be reinstated and awarded tenure at the University. Dr. Tudor appealed the trial judge’s denial, and on September 13, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and directed the trial judge to reinstate Dr. Tudor to her former position, with tenure.

At the time of the 2017 trial, Dr. Tudor’s case was one of several cases contending that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by an employer on the basis of sex, applied to transgender individuals. The decision even to allow her case to go to trial was a historic one. Dr. Tudor’s appeal was delayed for a significant period while the U.S. Supreme Court considered in a separate case whether the Title VII prohibition could be applied to a transgender employee. The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled last year in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731, that transgender discrimination constituted Title VII discrimination on the basis of sex, setting the stage for the recent appellate decision in Dr. Tudor’s favor.

NLLG’s Novotny was a member of Dr. Tudor’s trial team that helped win the 2017 jury verdict, and she was also instrumental in drafting the briefs on appeal to the Court of Appeals, along with attorneys Ezra Young (New York) and Marie Galindo (Texas). “It was a true team effort to help Dr. Tudor find justice in our federal court system. I am honored to have played a role in affirming the rights of transgender Americans to have employment decisions made free from discrimination,” said Novotny. “Dr. Tudor won a tremendous victory at trial,” Novotny explained, “but it was not complete with her being denied reinstatement. Even after the Supreme Court’s later decision in Bostock, Dr. Tudor’s reinstatement was not assured, so I was thrilled with the Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision in her favor.”

In ruling for Dr. Tudor, the Court of Appeals stated emphatically that, “it is established—and we cannot now question—that Dr. Tudor would have been granted tenure in 2009-10 absent the discrimination.” In directing that Dr. Tudor should be reinstated with tenure, the Court of Appeals said they were “restoring Dr. Tudor to the position she would have been in had Southeastern not engaged in prohibited discrimination against her.”

A copy of the Court of Appeals’ decision in favor of Dr. Tudor can be reviewed by clicking on this link.

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