Texas - Dallas Sheriff’s Office Faces Lawsuit After Pulling Job Offer From Shomer Shabbos Woman
Dallas, TX - An Orthodox Jewish Dallas woman has filed suit in a Dallas district court after the Dallas County’s Sheriff’s Department rescinded a job offer because of her Sabbath observance.
According to court documents, Isabel Balderas had been offered a job in data management with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department in July 2013. As she was being processed for her new position, Balderas advised her employer that she would need to leave half an hour early on Friday during the winter months because of her religious beliefs. That request got Balderas fired before she ever clocked her first hour.
A statement released by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department classified Balderas’ request as incompatible with the job requirements, which required her to be on call around the clock, seven days a week, as reported by the Dallas Morning News.
Robert Lee, Balderas’ attorney, disputed that notion.
“We disagree that the job was 24/7,” Lee told VIN News. “She would have had an assistant who would have been trained to be available during the limited amount of time she would need for religious accommodation. She wasn’t going to be working on Saturdays so the issue would have only been Fridays in the winter.”
Lee said that Balderas would have used vacation or sick days for Jewish holidays and that she would have made up any missed time, but that the sheriff’s department had no interest in pursuing those possibilities.
“She told them, ‘I’ll make it up. I’ll come in early. I’ll make it up on other days,’” said Lee. “Instead they didn’t have any real discussion how to make this work and the offer was just pulled.”
Lee, who specializes in employment related law, said that he has litigated numerous cases involving many different religions.
“I’ve had some related to Jewish individuals, some involving Muslims and every other religion you can think of that is non-Christian and it seems like employers are less likely to provide accommodations,” said Lee. “State law says that you have to provide accommodations for someone’s religious beliefs if it is reasonable and won’t create an undue burden but some employers don’t want any burden at all if it is not related to their own religious beliefs.”
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department does make numerous arrangements are made for Christian employees, alleges Balderas’ lawsuit.
After her job offer was rescinded, Balderas filed a claim with the Texas Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the first step in pursuing a legal claim against the sheriff’s department. Lee noted that the EEOC typically deals with a large backlog of cases with minimal manpower, resulting in very lengthy waits on filings.
Balderas’s lawsuit names both Dallas County and Lupe Valdez, head of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, as defendants and seeks to recover between $100,000 to $1 million in damages and relief in a jury trial.
“My client has an understanding that a lot of Orthodox Jews won’t go into certain areas of work because of backlash relating to these circumstances,” said Lee. “We are hoping to achieve greater tolerance to allow people to follow their religious beliefs, especially when it doesn’t create a burden for the employer, which in 99 percent of the cases it doesn’t.”
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