Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Discrimination Lawsuit against Tarrant County College Administrators

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March 12, 2012
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr.

“The Court’s ruling means Jackie Gill is entitled to her day in court.  Public employers should know that interfering with the hiring process based on the perception that a candidate is a lesbian violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.”

(Fort Worth, TX, March 12, 2012) – A U.S. District Court judge today denied a motion by Tarrant County College (TCC) administrators to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former TCC professor who alleges that the administrators violated the U.S. Constitution by preventing her from interviewing for full-time teaching positions because of their belief that she is a lesbian. The Court ruled today that the administrators are not entitled to qualified immunity against these claims because they either knew or should have known that discrimination by public employers on the basis of sexual orientation can violate the U.S. Constitution.

“The Court’s ruling means Jackie Gill is entitled to her day in court,” said Kenneth Upton, Jr. Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office based in Dallas.  “Public employers should know that interfering with the hiring process based on the perception that a candidate is a lesbian violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.”

Benjamin D. Williams, pro bono co-counsel of the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, added, “The Court concluded that in 2009, when the TCC administrators refused to interview Gill, the unconstitutionality of sexual-orientation discrimination lacking a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental aim was clearly established. This should serve as a warning for public employers everywhere.”

Lambda Legal represents Jacqueline Gill, a Ph.D. student and former high school English teacher who most recently worked as a full-time temporary professor at Tarrant County College’s (TCC’s) Northeast Campus in Hurst.  Gill was hired in August, 2009, and at the time was informed that it was customary to hire full-time instructors on a temporary basis first, and that teachers who complete the one-year contract term successfully are uniformly hired when the positions are made permanent.

Gill received high praise from colleagues, superiors, parents and teachers while at TCC.  However, Gill was also subjected to a lengthy diatribe about “homosexuals” and about how “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals” by English Department Chair Eric Devlin.  In June, 2010, Gill alone of the contract teachers who entered with her in the summer of 2009 was not permitted even to interview for the teaching positions when they were made permanent.

In its Complaint filed last September in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lambda Legal alleges that Devlin and Antonio Howell, TCC Division Dean of Humanities, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to permit Gill to interview for a permanent teaching position and by interfering with the hiring process regarding Gill’s application based on their perception that she is a lesbian.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kenneth Upton is representing Jacqueline Gill, with Benjamin D. Williams of the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as pro bono co-counsel.  The case is Gill v. Devlin and Howell.

The District Court order is here: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/gill_tx_20120312_order-denying-mtd

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Contact Info

Press contact:  Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email: twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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