Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs to pay 8 employees in police discrimination case

The city will pay $5,000 to each of eight female police station employees who won a state Division o

The city will pay $5,000 to each of eight female police station employees who won a state Division of Human Rights discrimination complaint.

The women had filed the complaint alleging that the city discriminated against them by not offering female bathrooms, showers or an adequate locker room or break room — facilities the men have.

Insurance might cover the $40,000, said Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety, adding that the penalty is not as bad as he had feared.

In May 2008, an attorney for the division recommended that each female employee get $2,000 for each year she had worked there.

An administrative law judge in Syracuse who heard the case for the division set the $5,000 award.

Edward Luban ruled Aug. 7 that the city had discriminated against the women by not providing them with their own bathroom and shower and by giving them a tiny locker room that was not large enough for all of the women to use.

“Complainants credibly testified that the lack of adequate facilities was ‘stressful,’ ‘frustrating’ and ‘disheartening,’ that it caused them embarrassment and that it made them feel ‘very uncomfortable,’ ‘disgusted’ and ‘second class’ compared to male officers,” Luban wrote.

The women are police officers Stacy Rigano, Vanessa Canzone, Eileen Cotter and Meghan Mullan, dispatchers Renee Willette, Abbey Temple and Suzanne Green and parking enforcement officer Kelly Otis.

They were paid for their “mental anguish,” according to the decision.

Luban’s order was released to the public Tuesday after Kim said that his office received it Monday.

The women complained about having to use bathrooms outside the police station and come to work dressed in their uniforms or risk being late for their shift because the locker room was too small for more than one person to change at a time.

Once, a dispatcher wet her pants trying to find a bathroom to use. Another dispatcher said male dispatchers and police officers made fun of her when she had to walk past them holding feminine hygiene products.

Two police officers who returned to work after having babies stopped breastfeeding because there was nowhere private to pump breast milk.

One employee had to go home to shower after getting bodily fluids from a prisoner on her, and she was warned for being late when she returned because her home is half an hour from the police station. She also took to changing her uniform in her car because she was reprimanded for walking through the training room to get to the female locker room during roll call.

Several female police officers feared being recognized by someone they had arrested when they came to work in uniform in their personal vehicles.

Male officers come to work in plainclothes and change in the locker room.

Men have their own locker room and shower area, and the men’s shower was renovated in 2007 with no changes made to the women’s facilities, Luban noted in his decision.

The 1871 facility was built when there were no female Police Department employees. Later, a 6-by-7-foot broom closet was converted into a female locker room, but it only had enough lockers for police officers, not dispatchers.

Of the four toilets in the department, one was in the male locker room and one is in the booking area that is used by incoming prisoners .

The city added a women’s bathroom and shower and enlarged the locker room last year at a reported cost of $7,700, after the complaint was filed in the fall of 2007.

Kim and other officials have pushed for a new police facility for years.

The 6,600-square-foot police station is known to be too small for the 82 police employees it houses.

When he testified before the Division of Human Rights, Kim said the City Council was actively working on getting a new police station.

But now those plans appear to be up in the air. Although the city took bids last fall to build a police station on the city-owned parking lot at the corner of Lake, Maple and High Rock avenues, no one has been awarded a contract.

Kim blamed the rest of the City Council for failing to act on the police station problems.

“We’re no closer to a police station than we were in 2006 when I took office,” he said.

Other officials have said that the high cost of a police station makes it difficult to afford.

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