EUGENE, Ore. — An Oregon jury has awarded more than $1.7 million to Nicole Gililland, a former nursing student who sued her school for discriminating against her because of her adult performer past.
Although the jury declined to hold Southwestern Oregon Community College liable for Title IX violations, it did find SWOCC in breach of contract for derailing Gililland’s career and life after the school administration and instructors found out in 2017-2018 about her brief stint as an adult performer a decade earlier.
Gililland performed for adult studios for around 20 months between 2007 and 2009.
The jury's verdict was announced on Thursday, awarding Gililland $735,417 in compensation for the economic damage inflicted on her by SWOCC staff, plus $1 million in punitive damages.
After a long process protracted by the school’s reluctance to acknowledge wrongdoing, Gililland and her lawyers convinced the jury of the merits of her claim that in 2017, an SWOCC staffer told her she could not be a nurse because she was an “unclassy woman” and that records were altered to make her flunk out of the nursing program in which she had been excelling.
“This case has involved a lot of serious miscarriages of justice from the beginning,” Gililland told XBIZ in December.
She is currently thriving as a law student in Massachusetts, and has become involved in sex worker rights advocacy and activism during her years-long fight against her former Oregon nursing school.
“Every fail-safe to protect me as a citizen and student had failed me,” she continued. “This is the first real example of ethics and reason being applied to what has happened, and it has given me a renewed sense of hope in the system.”
Lawyer: 'A Message to Take Discrimination Complaints Seriously'
Gililland’s attorney, Brandon Mark, told XBIZ that his firm, Parsons Behle & Latimer, is “grateful for the opportunity to represent Nicole Gililland in her suit against Southwestern Oregon Community College. Michael Young and I were fortunate that Ms. Gililland trusted us to help her tell her story to a jury of her peers.”
After considering “the substantial evidence presented during trial and thoughtfully deliberating for an entire day, the jury a returned a fair verdict for Ms. Gililland,” Marks continued. “The verdict should be a message to colleges and employers alike that they must take complaints of harassment and discrimination seriously, especially discrimination or harassment based on gender stereotypes, and must protect those who bring complaints to them in good faith from retaliation.”
Gililland: 'Justice Was Done'
Gililland told XBIZ today that she is “relieved and encouraged by the fact that justice was done, the justice system worked in my case” and that she can now have her life back.
“As I had the chance to tell the jury during my testimony, ‘None of us should be here,’” she added. “The SWOCC authorities had every chance to show basic leadership and human decency every step of the way dealing with this clear-cut case of egregious discrimination, and instead they chose to drag me and my family through a needlessly protracted process. They decided to continue the victimization of a former sex worker instead of doing the right thing.”
Gililland expressed appreciation for her legal team of Mark, Michael Young and Sherrie Ross and gratitude for the jury “helping prove that this kind of discrimination happens, and that society should condemn those in power who aid and abet it.
“I just finished my first year at UMass Law,” she said. “And while law school is difficult, the environment there is so diverse and supportive. It’s a breath of fresh air after my experiences at SWOCC.”