The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department faces another gender-based legal challenge, the fifth in a series of claims by female employees.
In a sex discrimination claim reviewed Tuesday by county supervisors, jail guard Denise Ubides says she was denied shift preference "because I am female."
The $100,000 claim, which can be a precursor to a lawsuit, appears related to a dispute over supervision of female inmates and effects on guards' schedules.
Sheriff Adam Christianson declined comment on the claim, but documented a disagreement that apparently led to Ubides' claim. Though gender is at the issue's core, bias is not, he said in an e-mail to The Bee.
Female guards have less shift flexibility than more numerous male guards. State law allows men to oversee women in some circumstances, but only if a female guard is on hand for searches or anything else requiring entrance to a cell.
Seniority -- typically a top consideration in work schedules -- has less meaning with those constraints, said Deputy Mark Cardoza. He was president of the custodial union during last year's bargaining on the issue with sheriff's management.
"Feelings get hurt because people's seniority is involved," Cardoza said. "People are passionate about their family life and being able to be on a certain shift. You pay your dues for so many years, you've earned the right to be on the shift you want."
Ubides, 45, filed an internal complaint in February. An investigation by the county chief executive's office found no evidence of discrimination or retaliation, Christianson said.
Negotiations led to policy
Union negotiations led in September to a formal policy requiring four female guards per shift -- one for each of the four female inmate housing units. County management, the union's attorney and Cardoza signed off, the sheriff said.
"I sympathize with (female guards), but unfortunately the department's hands are kind of tied because they have to have so many on each shift," Cardoza said.
Christianson clarified the policy in a Nov. 25 letter to the union, and sent Ubides a letter in December denying gender bias. She filed a formal complaint Jan. 27, naming the department and Christianson as responsible.
Ubides' attorney works for the Pleasanton firm of Schauman and Hubins, which took at least two other cases brought by women against the Sheriff's Department.
Schauman and Hubins obtained a $545,000 settlement on behalf of three women to avert a trial in the fall. Attorneys were in court Wednesday selecting jurors in a civil case brought by former sheriff's records clerk Lydia Lopez, who alleges sexual harassment and retaliation.
The sheriff's office has been criticized because it's the only one of the county's 27 departments that opts out of uniform sexual harassment training to run its own version, and because the department has produced a high ratio of gender-based complaints.
Christianson is up for election in June. He is being challenged by Turlock police Capt. Rob Jackson, who worked nearly 20 years for the Sheriff's Department, until two years ago.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.