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College settles discrimination lawsuit filed by lesbian professor

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tarrant County College (TCC) and former TCC professor Jacqueline Gill have agreed to settle the federal discrimination lawsuit Gill brought against TCC claiming that officials of the college discriminated against her 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.

"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," said Kenneth Upton, Lambda Legal supervising senior staff attorney.

Benjamin Williams, pro bono counsel of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said the settlement was good for the professor.

"This mediated settlement allows Jackie to put this experience behind her and to move on with her life," Williams said.

Gill agreed.

"It was important for me to bring this challenge, but I'm also happy it's settled," Gill said. "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."

Gill is 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. At the time, Gill was informed that it was customary to hire full-time instructors on a temporary basis first, and that teachers who successfully complete the one-year contract term are uniformly hired when the positions are made permanent.

Notwithstanding receiving high praise from colleagues, superiors, parents and teachers, Gill was also subjected to what she characterized as 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 was not permitted even to interview for any of the several open teaching positions when they were made permanent.

Lambda Legal filed a federal discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of Gill in September 2011.

The case is Gill v. Tarrant County College District.