Discrimination Against Sex Workers
January 12, 2022
In 2017, Nicole Gililland made a career change. She began studying nursing at Southwestern Oregon Community College (“SOCC”), a school nestled in a rural stretch along the Oregon Coast. But once SOCC staff members discovered the nature of Gililland’s previous line of work, she alleges that she was pressured to leave the program. Gililland, a former sex worker, confronted a slew of complications: her work was graded differently than other students, she was falsely accused of plagiarism, she was told “it takes a classy woman to be a nurse, and unclassy women shouldn’t be nurses.”
Two years later, in February 2019, Gililland filed a lawsuit against SOCC under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools and colleges that receive government funds. SOCC is clearly one of such colleges, but the question remains: Does discrimination against sex workers constitute sex discrimination under Tilte IX?
December 2021 brought a welcome, albeit incomplete, answer to the question: Maybe. Gustavo Turner writes that Magistrate Judge Mustafa T. Kasubhai, sitting for the District of Oregon, held that Gililland “who left the nursing program and is currently enrolled in law school in Massachusetts—could move forward with her action” because discrimination against sex workers may fall under sex discrimination. This ruling, issued at summary judgment, allows the case to continue. Hopefully, it will allow Gililland to obtain the redress she seeks.
We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation wholeheartedly support Gililland in her action against SOCC.