Austin, TX – The Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association (DPSOA) has filed a lawsuit alleging that the department has discriminated against troopers by implementing waistline measurements as part of its physical fitness assessments.
The lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court on Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News reported.
According to the union, troopers who exceed the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) waistline requirements face potential termination from the force, even if they pass all other aspects of their physical fitness tests, KTVT reported.
The waistline requirements for male troopers has been set at a maximum of 40 inches, while female troopers must measure at 35 inches or less, according to The Dallas Morning News.
In addition to potentially losing their jobs, troopers who fail to come in under the mandatory measurements could face other repercussions instead, including loss of overtime pay, demotion, transfer, or loss of approval to work off-duty jobs.
"Not only is this policy demeaning, it is damaging to our troopers and to our citizens," DPSOA President Richard Jankovsky argued, according to The Dallas Morning News. "Not all physically fit troopers are of the same body type, the same height or the same genetic makeup."
The union called the policy “short-sighted,” and noted that troopers with larger frames who are physically fit could easily exceed the measurement limits because of their body types, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“Everyone is built different,” Jankovsky told the American-Statesman. “A belly measurement is not indicative of one’s health…or ability to do their job.”
The DPSOA also blasted DPS for having implemented the requirement without outside consultation, which the union alleged violates state law.
"The new standards have moved beyond testing for fitness needed to perform one's duty as an officer into an appearance policy that has little bearing on an officer's ability to keep Texans safe," Jankovsky said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Five hundred ninety-four of the 1,153 troopers who took the department’s fitness test this past spring failed to meet the waistline requirements.
Troopers are required to pass their physical fitness tests twice per year.
In the lawsuit, the union asked the court to block further use of the waistline standard while the matter is pending.
“We are 100 percent supportive of a physical fitness program and a healthy heart program. It is important that we do that,” Jankovsky told the American-Statesman. “We’re merely asking the agency to do what’s spelled out in statute.”
DPS Deputy Director Skylor Hearn said that the waistline requirement was implemented to help identify troopers with potential risk for various medical conditions, so they can “take proactive steps” to lower their “health and officer safety” risks, The Dallas Morning News reported.