Female officers’ complaint addressed

Female employees working at the city’s aged police station will get their very own bathroom sometime
Saratoga Springs police Officer Laura Emanatian, right, talks with Officer Eileen Cotter as Emanatian stands in the department’s locker room for female officers.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Saratoga Springs police Officer Laura Emanatian, right, talks with Officer Eileen Cotter as Emanatian stands in the department’s locker room for female officers.

Female employees working at the city’s aged police station will get their very own bathroom sometime in the near future.

In response to a complaint the women filed with the state Division of Human Rights, the city Department of Public Safety is making plans to divide the department’s roll call room to create a locker room for the women with a shower and toilet.

Currently, women and men use the same bathrooms at the station, which sometimes requires women to walk through the men’s locker room.

Twelve female employees in the Police Department filed a complaint with the division Sept. 22.

Among their complaints: the department has four unisex toilets; a large male locker room with a shower; and a tiny female locker room with no shower.

The city has eight female police officers. Five female dispatchers, one parking enforcement officer and one identification clerk have no locker room.

The human rights division made a preliminary ruling last month that the city may be discriminating against women. A final determination is scheduled to be made after an April hearing on the issue.

By then, the city hopes to be able to show proof of its work on the locker room, said Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety.

“This is our quick fix, but it doesn’t obviate the need for a new facility,” Kim said.

He has lobbied hard for a new public safety station, putting together a committee to study the issue shortly after he took office two years ago, and pushing the City Council to vote on the issue several times. These efforts also will be used in the city’s defense at the hearing, he said.

The police station in the ground floor of city hall is cramped and no larger than it was in the 19th century when the department housed six officers. Now 71 sworn officers make up the force, and 14 civilian employees work in the office.

“We’re just taking a very small slice of pie and cutting it even thinner,” Kim said.

The roll call room is also used for officers to write reports. It is located adjacent to a closet that was turned into a female locker room.

The wall between that closet and the new locker room will be knocked out, giving the women even more space, Kim said.

He expects the fix to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 in materials and said the city Department of Public Works will do the labor. He’s not sure how long the work will take.

Kim expects to ask the City Council to approve taking the money out of a capital contingency fund created for unexpected capital needs, since the money to make the locker room is not in the public safety budget.

“We want to certainly get the City Council’s cooperation in doing the work,” Kim said. “I would assume it’s not controversial.”

At the public hearing, the complainants will testify before a Division of Human Rights judge, who can either dismiss the complaint or determine that discrimination occurred. The judge can order a monetary damages award, issue a cease and desist order or require the employer to create an anti-discrimination policy.

The 1888 police facility had been named as a priority in the city’s 2008 capital budget. The previous City Council budgeted $8 million for the project, but the current City Council must vote to borrow that money if the project is going to happen.

An architectural firm is beginning the planning process with input from city officials and volunteers.

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