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Texas college settles federal employment discrimination suit

After months of negotiations through a court-appointed mediator, a Forth Worth college has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that the institution discriminated against a professor because of her sexual orientation. Though the college continues to deny that workplace discrimination took place, as a result of the settlement, the claimant will receive $160,000.

Dallas' neighbor Fort Worth is home to Tarrant County College, a community college that offers its students associates degrees. The former adjunct professor involved in the lawsuit said she was not allowed to interview for a full-time position because of her sexual orientation. She alleges that the chairman of the English department told her that "Texas and TCC don't like homosexuals." With the help of a civil rights group, the professor filed a federal employment discrimination suit against the college.

TCC moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but a federal judge rejected the motion. In his ruling, the judge stated that even though gay and lesbian workers are not protected from discrimination in the private sector, it is a civil rights violation for a government entity or public employer to discriminate based on a person's sexual orientation.

TCC contended that it chose not to hire the former adjunct professor for a full-time position because her job performance had been unsatisfactory. The college denied any discriminatory conduct based on the fact that the professor was a lesbian. However, as is often the case, reaching a settlement was less costly for the institution than litigation.

Whether or not the college engaged in discrimination against this professor because of her status as a lesbian, this case will likely serve as important precedent for future discrimination cases. As stated by the judge who refused to dismiss the case, under federal law, government entities are forbidden from discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation.

Source: Star-Telegram, " TCC, former professor settle federal discrimination lawsuit," Diane Smith, July 18, 2012

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