Transgender prof files sex discrimination lawsuit against University

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Charin Davenport
Ann Coburn-Collins

Transgender adjunct professor Charin Davenport has filed a federal lawsuit against the University, alleging she was fired from her part-time administrative position based on her gender identity.

Davenport on Friday, April 8, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Detroit through her attorney, Jennifer Salvatore.

The sex-discrimination lawsuit alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

SVSU officials, the lawsuit alleges, “removed Davenport because Davenport is transgender, because of Davenport’s transition from male to female, and/or because Davenport did not conform to (SVSU’s) sex- or gender-based preferences, expectations, or stereotypes.”

Davenport is asking the court to reinstate her to her former position and is seeking financial damages from a jury.

SVSU Director of Media and Community Relations JJ Boehm said the University does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.

“We are aware of the lawsuit and we are confident that we will prevail in court, as all the facts come out,” he said. “We support all our students, faculty and staff, including those who are members of the LGBT community. We have a Pride Center on campus to serve those individuals and to contribute toward an inclusive campus environment.”

When Davenport began working at the University as an adjunct professor of English in August 2007, she presented as male and went by the name Charles.

In August 2011, Davenport was hired to also serve as a part-time coordinator of Academic Tutoring Services. Then, in July 2012, she was appointed assistant to the director of Academic Programs Support.

In both administrative capacities, she reported to Director of Academic Programs Support Ann Coburn-Collins.

The lawsuit alleges that Davenport at all times “adequately performed the duties of her administrative positions” and received positive reviews from Coburn-Collins.

In October 2013, she informed Coburn-Collins and other colleagues that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female and intended to present as a woman from then on.

Coburn-Collins, the lawsuit alleges, responded to the news of Davenport’s transition by saying, “It’s my fault. I should have given you that full-time job so you wouldn’t have had so much free time.”

While the lawsuit alleges Davenport and Coburn-Collins were “close colleagues,” Coburn-Collins “stopped talking to her (Davenport) or even acknowledging her in public places” after Davenport’s disclosure.

Two months after Davenport’s disclosure, in December 2013, Coburn-Collins notified Davenport that the University administration was eliminating Davenport’s position, “allegedly for budgetary reasons,” the lawsuit states.

A few months later, Davenport attempted to speak with Coburn-Collins regarding her termination. The lawsuit alleges that Coburn-Collins said, “You’re a liar; you lied to me; to your family; to your friends; to this university; and to everyone you know. Your entire life is just one big lie.”

The lawsuit also alleges Coburn-Collins then yelled at Davenport and said, “You disgust me. I can’t even stand to look at you. This is not about your so-called ‘gender identity.’ This is about you being a liar.”

Coburn-Collins threw an object at Davenport while she yelled at her, the lawsuit alleges.

“Based on this conversation,” the lawsuit states, “it was clear to Davenport why her administrative position had been eliminated.”

Salvatore, Davenport’s attorney, stated in a press release that her client “is a wonderful person with a lot of courage to speak out about what happened to her.”

“Discrimination against people who don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes is a form of sex discrimination under the law,” Salvatore stated. “No human being should be vilified and denigrated the way Char was by her supervisor, let alone lose their job because of who they are.”