The commissioner of the Division of Human Rights has ordered that the city pay double the compensation recommended by an administrative law judge to female police officers because of unequal facilities at police headquarters.
Eight female Police Department employees will collect $10,000 each for “mental anguish” caused by having to deal with the facilities, Commissioner Galen D. Kirkland ruled. That’s double the $5,000 recommended by administrative law judge Edward Luban in August. Kirkland cited other cases with similar awards.
The order was signed Tuesday and released Thursday.
The city is allowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court in Saratoga County within 60 days. The City Council would have to vote to appeal, said Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety.
“I’m certainly going to recommend that we don’t,” Kim said of an appeal.
Stacy Rigano, Vanessa Canzone, Kelly Otis, Renee Willette, Abbey Temple, Eileen Cotter, Suzanne Green and Meghan Mullan filed the discrimination complaint in the fall of 2007.
They alleged that the city knew the police station didn’t have bathrooms or a shower for women and had only a tiny locker room but didn’t correct the problem until after the complaint was filed even though money for facilities upgrades was budgeted for several years.
“We’ve done our best within my department to address this problem,” Kim said, adding that the permanent solution is building a new police station with modern facilities.
Kim speculated that the commissioner may have doubled the award to $10,000 because the City Council has not agreed to build a new police station, but Division of Human Rights spokesman Jim Mulvaney said that wasn’t the reason.
“If there is a continued problem, we assume there will be a subsequent complaint,” Mulvaney said.
The city does not have money budgeted to cover the $80,000, but insurance might cover at least part of it, Kim said.
Last month, the City Council agreed to pay police investigator Laura Emanation $5,000 to settle a similar complaint that also included an allegation that Emanation was not promoted to investigator in a timely manner.
The women in both cases alleged that the city discriminated against them by not having bathrooms for women in the circa-1871 police station. There were only four unisex toilets in the city police headquarters.
One was frequently soiled by prisoners and another was in the men’s locker room.
Female officers complained at a hearing that they were forced to come to work in their uniforms, opening them up to potential harassment. Officers and dispatchers frequently had to go looking for bathrooms, using public restrooms in stores and restaurants or going home.
One woman said she had an accident because she couldn’t get to a bathroom in time.