Fired NC LEO who refused to train female files religious discrimination suit

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Post by NHGF [Feed] » Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:04 pm

By Nancy McCleary The Sanford Herald, N.C. LEE COUNTY, N.C. — A former Lee County deputy has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his termination on Sept. 11, 2017, by Sheriff Tracy Carter was based on religious discrimination and retaliation. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina Western Division in Charlotte on July 31. Manuel A. Torres, 51, of Sanford, says he was fired from Lee County Sheriff's Office for refusing to train a female deputy because it violated his religious beliefs. He further claims he was rejected for employment at the Siler City and Apex police departments based on false information given by the sheriff's office. Sheriff Tracy Carter declined Tuesday to comment. "Torres holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife," the suit says. Doing so would violate his beliefs of being around a woman other than his wife, which would give "the appearance of sinful conduct on his part," the documents say. In July 2017, Torres was ordered to train a female deputy, which would require him to be alone for "significant amounts of time." On July 19, Torres asked Sgt. Jeff Oldham for a "reasonable religious accommodation" allowing him to be taken off the training assignment. In the next weeks, the suit says, Oldham alternated between granting and denying the request. Torres went to Oldham's supervisors about the actions and the denial of his request, and was assured that the situation would be handled. Afterward, the suit says, Oldham, angered that Torres went up the chain of command, retaliated by failing to respond to provide him backup at a multi-vehicle wreck "in an unsafe area." Torres had to use his taser gun on two suspects who were fighting, the suit said, and there was a gun on the scene. An officer from a neighboring jurisdiction responded, the suit says, "when the LCSO refused or neglected to do so for almost a half hour." On Sept. 6, 2017, documents say, Chief Deputy Randall Butler spoke with Torres about his religious accommodation request. Butler "expressed his anger" about the request and Torres' beliefs against being alone with a woman other than his wife. On Nov. 9, 2017, Torres filed charges of religious discrimination against the sheriff's office. In July 2018, Torres filed a second claim against the sheriff's office, claiming "false referrals" to the Siler City and Apex police departments were made in retaliation. During interviews with each department, Torres told them what happened in Lee County, according to the suit. Torres was offered a job as a patrol officer with the Siler City Police Department pending a background check. Even though he passed required pre-hire tests, the job offer was rescinded. Instead, Siler City hired a while male under the age of 40, the documents said. Torres is Hispanic. He interviewed with the Apex department, passed background checks and a required polygraph. However, documents say, an officer doing a background check was given false information by the sheriff's office about Torres' job performance. Upon learning of the religious accommodation request, "Apex never responded to Plaintiff's telephone call or email request about the job position," documents say. Torres is seeking to be reinstated in the Lee County Sheriff's Office; more than $300,000 in compensatory damages; and more than $15,000 in punitive damages. ©2019 The Sanford Herald (Sanford, N.C.)

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