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Transgender Navy Vet sues Vanderbilt University for discrimination

By Michael Warrick

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — A transgender woman is suing Vanderbilt University saying she was ridiculed after transitioning from male to female. The lawsuit alleges longtime employee Olivia Hill was victim to vulgar abuse and ridicule after her transition surgery. Hill has worked for 25 years at the Vanderbilt University Power Plant.

“I knew how things were going to possibly be, but I really had hoped that people would be genuine,” Hill said. “I mean these are people that were friends of mine.”

Hill is represented by well-known civil rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who claims Vanderbilt demonstrated ‘stunning hypocrisy’ by violating its own policies of support for LGBT employees. “Vanderbilt is supposedly a great school in terms of their non-discrimination policies,” Rubenfeld said. “They talk the talk, and we want them to walk the walk as well.”

Hill, who was chosen as the 2020 Vanderbilt University “Advocate of the Year” by the Office of LGBTQI Life, is the first Vanderbilt employee to complete a gender transition while employed at Vanderbilt. She claims after her transition surgery to treat gender dysphoria, coworkers made crude comments to her and called her names.

“This is not about me anymore, it’s about every single woman who’s been wronged,” Hill said. “There’s a piece of my heart that belongs to Vanderbilt and always will. All I’m trying to do is help Vanderbilt do right.”

Vanderbilt released a statement in response the lawsuit that reads:

“Being recognized and accepted for who we are is essential to Vanderbilt’s teaching and learning mission.

We have taken intentional steps to help our employees feel respected, included and safe in their work environments, including providing resources for employees who identify as transgender, genderqueer or non-binary, as well as the managers who support them.

Among the resources available is information on topics such as confidentiality and privacy, names and pronoun use, and support for employees who are transitioning.

We take complaints to the university seriously as we continue to move forward in our commitment to foster an inclusive community.

As a rule we generally do not discuss details of employment or pending legal matters in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.”

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