9th Circuit Upholds Verdict Against Oregon College for Discriminating Against Former Adult Performer

9th Circuit Upholds Verdict Against Oregon College for Discriminating Against Former Adult Performer

SAN FRANCISCO — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a 2022 Oregon jury’s verdict in favor of Nicole Gililland, a former nursing student who sued her school for discriminating against her because of her adult performer past.

As XBIZ reported, the jury found the Southwestern Oregon Community College 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 awarded Gililland $735,417 in compensation for the economic damage inflicted on her by SWOCC staff, plus $1 million in punitive damages.

While this week’s 9th Circuit decision upheld the verdict and the economic damage compensation, it struck down the punitive damages.

The original trial followed a long process, protracted by the school’s reluctance to acknowledge wrongdoing, and vindicated Gililland in 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 2021. She has spent the last few years thriving as a law student, is in the process of completing her legal training in Massachusetts, and has become involved in sex worker rights advocacy and activism during her years-long fight against her former Oregon nursing school.

'This Isn't Justice'

On Wednesday, Gililland told XBIZ that she was disappointed that the appeals court ruled against the noneconomic damages. While legal precedent in Oregon is that “emotional distress” damages are not recoverable, she said the jury instructions asserted that noneconomic damages could include more than emotional distress, particularly “reputational harm.”

“Like for destroying my entire medical career with false accusations of being unsafe with patients, plagiarism — things I still have to answer for to this day and will have to forever,” Gililland said. “I just had to submit a mountain of pages with my bar application. I’ll never get to be free of those transcripts or what they did. The jury got to consider more than emotional distress.

“I’m not upset about the money,” she added. “I’m upset I had to fight this hard, for this long, to win — and then they still get away with it to a significant degree.”

At the time of the jury verdict, Gililland lambasted the SWOCC authorities for missing “every chance to show basic leadership and human decency every step of the way dealing with this clear-cut case of egregious discrimination.

“Instead, they chose to drag me and my family through a needlessly protracted process,” she added. “They decided to continue the victimization of a former sex worker instead of doing the right thing.”

After the appeals decision, Gililland continued questioning the handling of her case by SWOCC.

“They were able to get every other state-insured college to join in an amicus brief that made this appeal about public policy instead of the facts of my case, and the facts are horrific,” she said. “What’s even worse is the defendants got away with this behavior year after year, and none of the people responsible for stopping these kinds of abuses did anything about it. I filed formal complaints that were not properly investigated; I had no choice but to sue. This could have gone any other way if someone in power had looked at the situation and told them to knock it off.”

Instead, she said, Oregon funded the school’s defense at taxpayers’ expense, all the way through a trial and the recent appeal.

“What could be worse public policy than that?” she concluded. “Accountability to avoid lawsuits at all seems like the better rationale. I was forced to sue, I was forced to take on a five-year fight, I was forced to rebuild from the ground up — literally from a homeless shelter — because of their bad acts, and I won. So yeah, this isn’t justice and it certainly isn’t good policy.”

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