NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 25, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Olivia Ruth Hill, a highly-successful and awarded 25-year employee of Vanderbilt University who was forced file to file a Federal lawsuit against the University for discrimination and retaliation on the basis of sex, gender identity, and disability, has settled her lawsuit. Ms. Hill and her attorneys filed suit alleging that the University failed to follow its own internal procedures regarding fair treatment of LGBTQ employees. The settlement is confidential, but Ms. Hill is very happy with the results, which hopefully will prevent such unconscionable treatment of any other LGBTQ employees in the future.
"It is my hope that this resolution assures that no transgender person at Vanderbilt will ever have to go through the living hell that I endured," said Hill. "I loved Vanderbilt and devoted myself to the University for 25 years. I am pleased that we were able to resolve this matter."
Hill, who was hired by Vanderbilt in 1996 to work in the University's Facilities Plant, and her legal team filed suit September 2021 on nine counts, based on the University violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity, and based on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
"This case exposed the stunning hypocrisy of Vanderbilt in claiming to have such forward-thinking policies to protect LGBTQ staff and then treating the first person who actually transitioned to such horrible, unnecessary treatment. Vanderbilt cannot 'talk the talk' but not 'walk the walk,'" explained lead attorney Abby Rubenfeld of Rubenfeld Law Office PC. "We believe that justice has been served and that Vanderbilt got the message loud and clear."
Hill was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in late 2017 and began her medically-necessary transition from male to female in February 2019. Hill followed University procedures and notified University administrators in mid-2018 that she would be working full time as a woman and undergoing transition-related medical care at the recommendation of her physician.
Over the course of the next 18 months, Hill continued to be subjected to discrimination and harassment before she was placed on administrative leave in December 2019, while none the men who engaged in the behavior had any repercussions, the lawsuit said. When her immediate supervisor, the Plant Manager, announced his retirement in April 2021, Hill applied for the job but was told she would not get it, with no explanation and after she was forced to interview with some of the named individuals who had harassed her.
During her tenure at Vanderbilt, Hill, a disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy, has held every position at the Vanderbilt Power Plant and helped write the Standard Operational Procedures for all equipment within it. In 2019, then-Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos presented her with the Vanderbilt Chancellor Heart and Soul Award for "going far beyond her job expectations while carrying out the spirit and mission of Vanderbilt in all they do." She was never disciplined in her entire 25-year career.
Hill was represented by Nashville attorneys Abby Rubenfeld and John Nefflen and by Thomas Mew of the Atlanta firm Buckley Neal. Rubenfeld was one of the attorneys who successfully went to the U.S. Supreme Court for marriage equality for same sex couples in 2015, and Mew was one of the attorneys who successfully went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 to ensure that the employment discrimination protections of Title VII applied equally to the LGBTQ community. Nefflen is a highly accomplished Tennessee trial attorney. Hill was also assisted by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the premier national legal organization fighting against anti-LGBTQ treatment.
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SOURCE Rubenfeld Law Office PC