Lambda Legal & College in Texas Reach Agreement in Discrimination Lawsuit Brought by Lesbian Professor

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July 17, 2012
Lambda Legal client Jacqueline Gill

Tarrant County College (TCC) and former professor Jacqueline Gill have agreed to settle the federal discrimination lawsuit Lambda Legal brought against TCC on Gill's behalf. The suit claimed that TCC officials discriminated against Gill because of her sexual orientation.

The settlement agreement contains no admission of liability, but under the terms of the agreement, TCC agreed to pay Gill more than $160,000 and to provide her with a positive letter of recommendation. In addition, although not part of the settlement, TCC now has a written policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gill, a Ph.D. student and former high school English teacher, who was hired in August 2009 as a full-time temporary professor at TCC's Northeast Campus in Hurst, Texas. When she was hired, she was told it was customary to employ full-time instructors on a temporary basis first, and that teachers who complete the one-year contract successfully are uniformly hired when the positions are made permanent.

Gill received high praise from students, parents, colleagues and superiors. But a former student whom Gill disciplined for academic dishonesty retaliated by falsely claiming that Gill flirted with female students in class. No formal charge or investigation took place. Gill was then subjected to a lengthy diatribe from English Department Chair Eric Devlin about “homosexuals” and about how “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

All the contract teachers who started the summer of 2009 at TCC and applied for the teaching positions when they were made permanent were invited to interview—all of them, that is, except Gill. In September 2011, Lambda Legal sued Devlin and Antonio Howell, Division Dean of Humanities, Tarrant County College NE Campus, on Gill’s behalf.

Gill says:

It was important for me to bring this challenge, but I'm also happy it's settled. I'm also pleased to know that there is now a written policy in place at TCC that hopefully will not allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else.

Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Kenneth Upton says:

Jackie's fight resulted in a published decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that makes it clear that public employers can no longer claim ignorance about whether discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution.

More about the case here.

Learn more about workplace discrimination against LGBT people and those living with HIV.