College sued for federal discrimination against lesbian teacher

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Lambda Legal today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas claiming Tarrant County College officials violated the U.S. Constitution by preventing a qualified candidate from interviewing for full-time teaching positions because of their belief that she is a lesbian.

"Jacqueline Gill's qualifications match or exceed those of the other temporary instructors hired by Tarrant County College that summer. They were permitted to interview for those positions when they were made permanent, but Gill was not," said Kenneth Upton Jr., supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Dallas. "Public employers who interfere with the hiring process based on the perception that a candidate is lesbian violate the Constitution's equal protection guarantee."

"Employees have a right to be judged based on their job performance rather than any personal characteristic. And while we need Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from facing discrimination in private employment settings, public employers, like Tarrant County College, are already barred from discriminatory hiring and employment practices under the federal Constitution," Upton said.

Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, represent 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 after a former student who had been disciplined for academic dishonesty by Gill retaliated by falsely claiming that Gill flirted with girls during class, a claim Gill denied. Then, 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, Lambda Legal alleges that Devlin and Antonio Howell, Division Dean of Humanities, Tarrant County College NE Campus, 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.

"I'm a good teacher and I work hard. But none of that mattered once Eric Devlin suspected that I'm a lesbian," Gill said. "While I have never hidden my sexual orientation, neither have I ever told anyone on campus that I am gay. My partner and I have been together for over 12 years and we're both Texas natives. Finding a job these days is hard enough - no one should have to go through something like this."

Upton is representing Gill, with Williams as pro bono co-counsel. The case is Gill v. Devlin and Howell.

View the complaint HERE.

View the case page HERE.

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